Total employment in Idaho fell more than 4 percent between March and August, dropping from 488,000 to 467,000, according to a First Interstate Bank newsletter.

The bank put construction employment at 28,000, a decline of about 5,000 workers, and said the work force in finance, insurance and real estate hit 21,000, down from about 29,000."More interesting is the decline in government employment," the bank's October/November newsletter said. "During this period, the public sector work force fell from 96,000 to just under 92,000 . . . a dramatic change."

The trends cited by First Interstate correspond generally to those seen in the state's most recent projections, issued in late October.

The latest Idaho Economic Forecast put total nonfarm employment in the third quarter at 475,000, a 2.7 percent increase from a year earlier - even though the total in second quarter was 2.3 percent below 1994 levels.

The Forecast, issued by the state Division of Financial Management, said construction employment fell to an estimated 26,329 in the third quarter, following a steady decline from about 29,000 at the end of 1994, a record year.

First Interstate said residential construction in Idaho is down by about a third from last year's levels, while nonresidential construction is flat.

First-quarter retail sales, while 3.7 percent over 1994, show a slower rate of increase than during the past three years.

Employment in the sector that includes high-tech industries peaked at 41,000 in February - and "since then it has dropped 2,000," First Interstate reported.