Idaho’s economy and labor market have undergone significant changes in the last 10 years. The state has experienced a population boom after its recovery from the Great Recession, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Population growth and the labor market
One of the most striking features of Idaho’s economy in the last decade is the surge in its population. According to the Census Bureau, from 2012 to 2022, Idaho witnessed an increase of 343,000 residents inside its borders raising its total population to 1.939 million. If all of the additional residents collected themselves to start a new city in Idaho, it would be 45% larger than Boise, Idaho’s largest city with a population in 2022 of 236,632. This thought experiment demonstrates not only the magnitude of the population increase but the incredible economic change it drove.
From 2016, Idaho’s population growth rate held a streak as first in the nation with the highest percentage increase in population from year to year. In 2022, Idaho was second only to Florida with a 1.8% growth rate that was more than double the national average of 0.7%.
New residents to Idaho over the last decade also resulted in a civilian labor force increase of 178,400 or 23.1%. The civilian labor force includes people in the civilian population who are working or looking for work if unemployed. This increase helped drive Idaho’s total nonfarm employment up by 110,000, or 17.9%, from 2012 to 2022.
Idaho long term industry projections and industry performance
One method we can use to examine Idaho’s economic performance is to compare its growth with the Idaho Department of Labor’s long-term industry projections (LTIP). The LTIPS are produced every two years from historical data and economic models to provide an outlook of employment trends for the next ten years. They provide information on the growth or decline of each industry sector in Idaho.
It is important to note these projections offer a conservative forecast from which to make this comparison. The resulting data are not a prediction of the future, but a thought-experiment about what the economy may look like in ten years if running at full-capacity. Disruptions, such as a financial crisis or a pandemic, are not anticipated, nor are technological advancements (except when there is a known major industrial expansion in the works at the time the projections are developed).
The core intent is simple. Long-term industry projections are used to provide strategic information to people planning their careers and educational path. Educational institutions use industry projections for administration planning purposes. The projection process involves researching over 100 individual Idaho industries. Each industry projection involves a number of techniques and variables, with unpredictable changes that are harder to project.
Economic context is essential when comparing actual employment data from 2012 to 2022 with Idaho’s long-term industry projections developed in the first half of 2014. At that time, the U.S. and Idaho were emerging from the aftermath of the Great Recession. The projected increase of 109,700 jobs from 2012 to 2022 represented an annualized percentage growth of 1.7%. This projection was a conservatively optimistic model-driven estimate.
Idaho’s actual annualized growth rate of 2.9% from 2012 to 2022 with 206,400 more employment, turned out to be nearly twice that projection. The difference proved to be the surge in Idaho’s population growth. While making the projection in 2014, department analysts reviewed several population forecasts from a number of different sources. Two examples are included in the chart below. The most conservative projection was 0.8% annual growth, and among the most optimistic, 1.2%. No projection came close to the annual average population growth rate of 2%.
In addition, nearly every industry sector exceeded the national average. Some of the particularly strong sectors included construction, education and health services, leisure and hospitality and other services. The only Idaho industry sector that showed a decline was information, which includes publishing, broadcasting, telecommunications and data processing.
Idaho’s population boom increased the demand for housing and the projections for construction wildly surpassed the actual change as shown in Figure 4, which nearly tripled the employment increase. Employment increases in health care and social services were very close to the long-term projections for 2012-2022, arriving at a 3.1% annualized growth versus the 3% projected rate. Health care and social services (Figure 5) was Idaho’s only private industry sector that did not experience job declines during the Great Recession.
Idaho’s economic diversification attracted new businesses and industries, such as Amazon, which opened a fulfillment center in Nampa in 2020 and created over 2,000 jobs. Adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic benefited some industry sectors where Amazon is included like trade, transportation and utilities. Home delivery of online shopping saw an accelerated expansion of distribution in Idaho for the company and raised the growth trajectory of this sector above the projection as shown in Figure 6.
These are just a few examples of how and why Idaho’s economy has performed exceedingly well compared to the 2012-2022 long-term projections. Idaho has outperformed the national averages in most industry sectors, and our state’s economy has shown remarkable growth and change in the last decade, driven by its nation-leading population growth. The long-term projections provide a useful tool to understand future trends and challenges of the labor market and creates context for a dynamic and unpredictable nature of the economy. This is why Idaho’s long-term industry projections are updated every two years and serve as useful informational tools for stakeholders.
The Idaho Department of Labor is funded by the US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration to produce long-term industry and occupation projections. Every state in the nation receives funding for the same effort. The national data use for this process can be found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, and tools such as O*Net. Long-term projections are produced every other year with the 2020-2030 set being the most recent. The next set will be produced and released mid-2024 covering the 2022-2032 period.
The Idaho Department of Labor also produces an annual economic report cataloging the changes of the previous year. The most recent report covers 2022 and can be found here: Idaho_Labor_Market_Report_2022.pdf
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Craig.Shaul@labor.idaho.gov, research analyst supervisor
Idaho Department of Labor
208-332-3570 ext. 3201
This Idaho Department of Labor project is 100% funded by USDOL as part of $695,785 in Workforce Information Grant funds from the Employment and Training Administration.