Monthly Archives: May 2014

May Economic Activity

Idaho department of labor county developments


Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai & Shoshone counties

Regional Developments
  • A consortium of Spokane health care providers is planning a $15 million, 40,000-square-foot primary-care clinic in the city’s University District to serve as a training ground for new physicians and other emerging medical professionals. Residents will begin training this year. The consortium includes Washington State University, Providence Health Care and the Empire Health Foundation. The consortium has secured $900,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration for six new medical residencies in Spokane. Annual funding is expected to ramp up over the next three years to $2.7 million for 18 new residencies.
  • Red Lion Hotels Corp. continues to lose money, reporting a first-quarter net loss of $3.5 million compared with a loss of $3.1 million a year earlier.
  • At least three sizable apartment complexes valued at $42 million are planned for the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas, which are expected to see more apartment projects in the coming year. Analysts see demand driven by the number of baby boomers moving into more multifamily situations and out of single-family homes.
    Multifamily projects include:

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Idaho Job, Wage Recovery is Slow, Steady

Idaho’s job recovery began showing signs of life in late 2011 and picked up in 2013 when year-over-year monthly growth rates exceeded 2 percent, according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. In April 2013 Idaho had the third highest year-over-year job growth at 3.1 percent and the fourth highest in May at 3.1 percent.

Through the 12 months that ended in September 2013, Idaho recovered 21,000 of the 56,000 jobs it lost to the recession. While that recovery rate was 40th among the states, it underscored the slow job growth the state experienced during the first several years following the recession. Continue reading

Internet Sales Slow Retail Recovery

In 2013 retail sales in the United States rose to $4.53 trillion, an increase of 16 percent from the prior year. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, retail sales made up 27 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2013, up from 26.8 percent in 2012.

That kind of activity as the economic recovery continues would presumably lead to an increase in retail jobs, but unemployment among Idaho retail workers is much higher than the 5.2 percent jobless rate for the overall economy in March.

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Idaho Forest Group: Using Workforce Training Funds to Help Employees Grow

After the recession forced Idaho Forest Group to curtail operations and layoff workers, the company received $378,400 in Idaho Workforce Development Training Funds to recover 126 of skilled workers lost during the downturn, at an average wage of $13.68 per hour. Idaho Forest Group

Idaho Forest Group employees received training in safety, quality monitoring, time management, work organization, teamwork, communications, problem solving and lean manufacturing and processes.

“Although some are industry-specific, all of these skills are valued by the majority of employers,” said Beti Becker, vice president of human resources for Idaho Forest Group. “Some employees are novices with little experience. These skills are a foundation to build on for their careers.”

Today, newly hired entry level employees at Idaho Forest Group advance from $12 to $14 within 90 days, and from there, continue to advance to an average wage of $18. Employees who pursue additional skills such as industrial mechanics and electricians can earn $25 to $32 per hour.

“Although the economy has recovered, state workforce training funds allowed for industry specific training in technical, electrical, mechanical and industrial equipment operation that would not have otherwise been feasible due to costs,” Becker said. “It also allowed us to train a broader segment of our workforce in the principles of lean manufacturing.”


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Searching Early Increases Summer Job Options

The time to start planning for a summer job is now, and well before school is out for the summer. Employers typically hire before their busy season starts, just like a football player joins the team and practices before the games. Follow these tips and make sure your search is well underway:

  • Where’s your career plan?  A solid career plan outlines your strategy for professional success and demonstrates to a prospective employer that you know how to think ahead. If you don’t have a career plan, this summer is a good time to get one done. Learn more by logging on as a GUEST at
  • Get your job search materials together.  Visit the Job Search section of the Department of Labor’s Idaho Career Information System — CIS — for information about staying organized, completing applications and résumés, and preparing for job interviews.
  • Write a résumé outlining your work experience, skills and strengths. Are you involved in sports, clubs, volunteering? While you may not have a lot (or any) work experience, employers look for applicants who participate in other activities besides school. Sometimes these extra activities can show some of your positive traits and how they will be put to use in a work setting.Teen summer job
  • Register with IdahoWorks as a way to search for jobs. Check out your local newspaper’s online offerings. Visit your he nearest Idaho Department of Labor  local office and ask a workforce consultant for help with making sure the sites you search are valid and the best ones to use for finding the job you want.
  • Tell everyone you know you are looking for a summer job. Ask your coaches, parents’ friends, teachers, counselors –anyone who may know of other places to look and ask them to keep you in mind for a summer job. You never know where your next job is coming from. Networking his is a skill you will use your entire life so start now!

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Idaho Welder Wages Lag U.S., Neighboring States

A lack of welders in Idaho could have more to do with what they are being paid in surrounding states according to a cross-state comparison of wages.

Welding employment varies by state and over time. Nationally, the number of welders has been fairly stable since 1998 with the exception of 2008 when the previous expansion swelled payrolls almost 11 percent before they declined back to 352,000 in 2013.

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Retail Sales Move From Big Ticket Items to Gasoline, Online Sales

Idaho was not immune from the national recession that took a bite out of retail sales. While retail has been recovering since 2010, sales and employment remain below prerecession levels despite population growth, and the outlook remains mixed.

Retail fell and now is rising: Retail activity, based on sales subject to Idaho sales tax and adjusted to 2013 dollars, fell 11.1 percent from $23.8 billion in 2007 to $18 billion in 2010. Since then sales have been increasing, but at $21.2 billion in 2013, remained below the prerecession peak.

Retail chart 1

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Retirements Open Job Opportunities in Idaho’s Wood Products Industry

A guiding principle of the wood and paper products industry is to reforest after harvesting – planting new trees for future generations. Now, as baby boomers retire, northern Idaho wood products manufacturers are applying that same principle to their workforce.

There are 240 wood products and paper manufacturing businesses employing 6,800 people in 40 of Idaho’s 44 counties. Using the statewide multiplier of 2.79 for all wood products and paper manufacturing subsectors, combined they create another 12,136 jobs in other sectors across the state. To further signify the industries’ role in Idaho’s overall economy, the annual average wage is $42,620 – 18 percent higher than the average wage for all industries.

Over half of Idaho’s wood and paper products jobs are in the 10 northern counties, and most of the rest – 36 percent – are in southwestern Idaho. Nearly one in three manufacturing jobs in Idaho’s 10 northern counties is in wood and paper products, making these regions highly dependent on the industry and its rolling multiplier effect.

Wood products table 1

Nonetheless, the industry has identified a void in its aging workforce.

Nearly half the workers are 45 or older, leaving mill managers mulling future workforce needs. One in four northern Idaho mill workers is set to retire in the next 10 years – 23.5 percent are 55 and older compared to 20.5 percent statewide. Another 31 percent are between ages 45 and 54 in the north compared to 26 percent statewide.

Wood products table 2

Log scalers and saw filers were becoming obsolete, and increased mechanization in the mills generated a need for industrial control technicians – electricians trained on program logic controllers, or PLCs. With that, a partnership was formed between North Idaho College, the Idaho Department of Labor and the three largest wood product manufacturers in northern Idaho – Idaho Forest Group, Potlatch and Stimson.

To meet industry needs – especially as the knowledge, skills and expertise of the baby boomers disappears with their retirements – the state’s Workforce Development Council approved a new Industry Sector Grant program. It uses Workforce Development Training Funds to assist Idaho employers in creating new jobs or retaining existing ones. The fund is financed with a 3 percent offset of employer unemployment insurance taxes. It reimburses employers for training costs for jobs that pay at least $12 per hour and include employer-assisted medical benefits.

As a result of collaborative efforts and the state’s Industry Sector Grant program, a Wood Products Manufacturing Center of Excellence was created at the college to focus on training logic controller technicians, or PLC electricians, saw filers and log scalers as part of the industry’s succession plan.

Wood products table 3

The wood products consortium received $374,000 to run training programs for these occupations over the next two years – $281,000 from the training fund and the rest in a match from the businesses. The center at the college’s Workforce Training Center has been operating since Jan. 1.

Other regions across the state could benefit from this pilot program as well. With 36 percent of the wood products and paper industry in southwestern Idaho, similar partnerships could apply a similar foundation to fill their employer needs.

The number of job openings in wood products and paper manufacturing is at 2007 levels. There were 712 job openings statewide in 2012 – 14 percent more than in 2007. In 2013, job openings slowed but still remained around 2007 levels with 600 jobs posted through the Idaho Department of Labor. Electricians, kiln operators, truck mechanics and skilled saw filers were among some of the good-paying jobs the industry needed to fill.

The output of Idaho’s wood products sector is likely to grow considerably in the next 10 years, and the need to replace an aging workforce is a growing concern. As the housing market continues to recover and housing starts normalize, mills across the state have leapt back into full production. Growing population and increased prosperities in China and other Asian countries increased those countries’ imports of Idaho wood products, which should continue. Declining competition from imported western Canadian wood products due to the risk of disease and pests is also expected to reduce timber harvests in British Columbia and Alberta. The U.S. Forest Service is willing to increase timber harvests on public lands, and the Clearwater Basin Collaborative and the Panhandle Forest Collaborative are expected to lead to more federal timber sales.

A bright future looms in the wood products industry. The center will train the next generation of workers in an industry that has always been the backbone of northern Idaho’s economy., regional economist
(208) 457-8789 ext. 348


Bannock County’s Economic Recovery Slows

Bannock County is trying to attract new businesses and help existing companies grow, but in order to regain prerecession employment levels, food and high-tech manufacturing payrolls need to expand.

The most recent unemployment statistics for Bannock County suggest the economic tide is turning in the Pocatello area. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in February was 5.2 percent, a tenth of a point below the statewide rate.

Still employment in Bannock County could be better. Through the recession and since, the total number of workers on the job decreased nearly 7 percent from 40,100 in 2007 to 37,400 in 2013.

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Preventing Pregnancy-Related Discrimination

Most employers know and understand their employees are protected from workplace discrimination which ranges from safeguarding against unjust or prejudicial treatment based on gender, age or disability, to race-based discrimination.

What many don’t know is national anti-discrimination laws also protect women from pregnancy-related workplace discrimination and harassment.

pregnancyRobin Runge, Senior Policy Adviser for the U.S. Department of Labor Civil Rights Center identifies several red flags that indicate pregnancy-related discrimination may be at play:

  • An employment agency refuses to refer a pregnant individual for employment;
  • A job announcement that states  applications from pregnant individuals or individuals who may become pregnant will not be accepted;
  • Denying someone who is pregnant access to a training program, participating in other activities or receiving benefits;
  • Encouraging someone who discloses she is pregnant to drop out of a training or education program;
  • Refusing to provide a pregnant individual with regular access to a bathroom or breaks from standing for long periods of time;
  • Unwillingness to provide lactation breaks and a clean, private space (not restroom) to express breast milk.

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