As the ups and downs of the last few years show, the trucking industry can be an economic barometer. Most goods in the United States are shipped by tractor-trailer. Economist Tavio Headley, who studies the transportation industry, maintains the amount of goods shipped and the number of drivers employed often represents sales trends and overall inventory levels.
Before the recession trucking thrived. There were not enough drivers to meet demand. Some major carriers even resorted to paying third-parties up to a $1,000 for every recruit they delivered to meet driver demand.
But during the early months of the recession Idaho’s trucking industry and the rest of the country suffered. Demand for drivers and tonnage shipped over the road slipped drastically. Many trucking companies mothballed or sold off part of their fleets and some sold out or merged with other carriers.
So if trucking is a harbinger, then the current national economic outlook is positive. According to the most recent U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast released last summer, freight tonnage should grow 21 percent by 2023. The American Transportation Association reports that monthly freight tonnage was up 6.5 percent nationally last year from 2011. Occupational projections by the Idaho Department of Labor indicate a growing need for truck drivers in the coming years.
Keith Jensen is a 19-year-old high school dropout who bounced from couch to couch the past two years, when what he really wanted was his GED and a job.
Reba Elson, a workforce consultant at the Idaho Department of Labor, helped Keith assess his skills and found he was ready to take the GED tests. He had no transportation so his case manager purchased a one-month pass with Treasure Valley Transit so Keith could go to the GED testing location and start his job search.
Reba mentioned during a staff meeting that Keith tested well on the math portion of his GED. Another staff member heard a local precision machine parts company was looking for an applicant who was good with decimals. Reba contacted Keith and the employer about the possibility of on-the-job-training and the employer agreed to an interview.
Youth unemployment has been a concern throughout this recession and well into the recovery. According to the Current Population Survey, young people are having more trouble finding employment. Labor force participants between the ages of 16 and 19 especially face an annual unemployment rate three times the rate for the civilian labor force overall.
This is not just a phenomenon of the current recovery. From 2007 to 2012, younger workers have continued to have a much higher rate than that of the overall population.
While the employment situation for the country is improving, that gap is not. In 2007, unemployment among 16- to 19-year-olds averaged 11 percentage points higher than in the overall labor force. This difference peaked in 2010 at an average of over 16 percentage points. Since then, the difference has stayed roughly the same, losing only a half point in 2012. Over the same span, the unemployment rate for those 16 and older has dropped more than two percentage points.
Improvement in the housing market hiked domestic demand for lumber, offsetting dampened foreign demand and pushing U.S. lumber production higher in 2012. Mills generally enjoyed stronger profit margins on improved lumber and log prices that remained at or below 2011 levels for most of 2012.
Idaho Forest Group Chairman Marc Brinkmeyer told Idaho lawmakers in early January he does not see a downside for the timber industry in 2013. “The only question is what level is the upside?” he said, predicting higher employment and wages for this year.
Electricians install and maintain electrical systems in homes, businesses and factories and play an integral role in the economy. Almost every building or house has an electrical system that is installed during construction and maintained after that.
Electricians held approximately 2,780 jobs in 2011 throughout Idaho, of which 57 percent were employed in the electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors industry, but more than 5 percent of manufacturing jobs in Idaho are filled by electricians.
Electricians learn their trade through a formal apprenticeship or a technical school. Most states license them, and in Idaho, a licensed journeyman electrician requires four years – a minimum of 8,000 hours – of
work experience as an apprentice electrician making electrical installations under the constant supervision of a qualified journeyman electrician and four years – a minimum of 576 hours – of approved electrical
apprenticeship classroom instruction.
The median hourly wage of electricians is $23.10 in Idaho. The starting pay for apprentices usually is between 30 percent and 50 percent of what fully trained electricians make and receive pay increases as they gain more skill.