Monthly Archives: June 2014

June Economic Activity in Idaho

Idaho department of labor county developments


Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai & Shoshone counties

Regional Developments

  • Idaho Forest Group, operator of five mills in northern Idaho, is expanding into cross-laminated timber – a super-strong engineered wood called CLT. The expansion is a partnership with the Johann Offner Group, a global manufacturing company headquartered in Wolfsberg, Austria. Idaho Forest Group will be the first in the United States to sell CLT, which is layers of lumber oriented at right angles to one another and glued together to form rigid panels with exceptional strength and stability. Together, the two family-owned companies  will market and distribute CLT building systems in the U.S. as soon as this year. Idaho Forest Group will initially import CLT with an eye toward manufacturing it within three years.
  • North Idaho College trustees accepted the college administration’s proposal to fill a budget shortfall of $352,000 for fiscal year 2015 by raising tuition $2 per credit hour for Kootenai County students and $6 per credit hour for out-of-district students. Local students taking 12 credits will now pay $1,511 per semester, a 1.6 percent increase.
  • New Jersey Mining Co. of Coeur d’Alene, which owns the New Jersey Mill in Kellogg, bought 13 patented mining claims covering 220 acres near Elk City from Vancouver, B.C.-based Premium Exploration Inc., for $425,000. PennStarter, a newly formed division of Coeur d’Alene-based stock brokerage Pennaluna & Co., had raised more than $1 million for New Jersey Mining through its online equity funding portal launched last November so people could invest mainly in startup companies. New Jersey Mining was one of three companies that PennStarter initially included on the website. PennStarter specializes in the mining and natural resources industry.

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Marriage Customs in Idaho, Nation Changed Significantly Since 1960s

Since the 1960s, Idaho, like the rest of the United States, has seen dramatic changes in marriage customs. They, in turn, affect the makeup of households, which determines the strength of consumer spending, home stability for children and the educational attainment and size of the available workforce.


Attitudes toward marriage have changed dramatically in the past two or three decades.

While marriage once was a first step into adulthood, it now is one of the last steps. Andrew J. Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins, wrote in an April 27, 2013, New York Times article that “marriage has become the capstone experience of personal life — the last brick put in place after everything else is set. … Young adults with greater earning potential, who can afford the capstone celebration, are still marrying in large numbers while those with poorer economic prospects are holding off. According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, 88 percent of 35- to 44-year-old women with four-year college degrees have married, compared with 79 percent of those without high-school diplomas. In fact, young adults without college degrees are increasingly likely to put off marriage and have their first children in cohabiting relationships, sometimes years before they marry. Nearly all of the increase in childbearing outside of marriage in the last two decades is from births to cohabiting couples, most without college degrees, rather than to single mothers.

“More than 90 percent of American women with four-year college degrees wait until after they are married to have children. … Moreover, their marriages are lasting longer — since 1980 the divorce rate has dropped faster for those with college degrees so that about one in six of their marriages ends in divorce in the first 10 years compared with nearly one in two marriages among people without high school degrees.”

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Unemployment Claims May Indicate Emerging Employment Trends

Large decreases in initial claims imply impending employment strength and economic growth for Idaho.

Workers who lose their jobs and are covered by the unemployment insurance program usually file an initial unemployment claim, serving notice that they are beginning a period of unemployment. In 2008 only 36 percent of the total unemployed received unemployment insurance benefits nationwide, but information from those initial claims can indicate labor market conditions and provide insight into the direction of the economy.

Large increases in claims draw attention because they suggest looming employment weakness, which could spread throughout the economy. In the depths of the recession, the number of initial claims in Idaho hit a record 28,314 in December 2008. Employment levels were plummeting and the number of workers filing continuing benefit claims each week was climbing. Continue reading

Nightforce Optics: Using WorkForce Training Funds Help Employees Advance

Nightforce Optics1

In 1992, Nightforce Optics was established in Orofino with only two employees. As of 2013, the business passed its 100-employee mark, a success company officials attribute largely to participation in the Workforce Development Training Fund. Nightforce Optics produces a variety of high-end precision rifle and spotting scopes.

“The options for Nightforce without the Workforce Development Training Fund would have meant fewer monies available to fund capital expenses, which in turn would have curbed our growth,” said Debbi Duffy, human resource manager with Nightforce Optics. “It would have also meant less money to support hiring and the ability to provide annual cost of living increases for the existing workforce.”

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Idaho Ag Business Recovering, Changing

Idaho agriculture has bounced back from the decline it experienced between 2002 and 2007 according to the new 2012 Census of Agriculture. But the composition of Idaho farms is shifting.

While agricultural acreage increased more than 2 percent since 2007 to regain 2002 levels, the number of farms declined since 2007 by about the same percentage, and the commodities being grown have changed.

Ag chart 1

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One-Third of Idaho Jobs Pay Self-Sufficiency Wages

The percentage of Idaho jobs paying enough to support a household at a minimal standard of living without any government or private assistance continues to decline.

Only three jobs in 10 pay enough to meet just the most basic needs of the traditional family of four. The percentage of jobs paying enough to meet what is called the Lower Living Standard Income Level fell in 2014 for all other household sizes as well.

FYI graph 1

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Growing Occupations Offer Opportunities to New Idaho Grads

Thousands of collegians have received their degrees and are starting – or hoping to start –  careers for which they have spent four or more years studying. In the past year 1,248 students graduated from Idaho State University, many entering an economy showing signs of growth.

The tight job market graduates experienced during the past several years has loosened up.

ISU Grads pie chart_Dan

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Idaho Leads Research to Identify High-Tech Taxonomy

New national research, led by the Idaho Department of Labor, has evolved into a new industrial taxonomy for high technology jobs. The research, conducted for the Workforce Information Council[1], involved using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Quarterly Workforce Indicators  to compare states across several different metrics. Idaho’s performance was mixed.

The new high-tech industry taxonomy is based on concentrations of occupations from two subdomains of the Standard Occupation Classification Policy Committee’s STEM occupation list – life and physical science, mathematics and information and engineering and health. All four-digit NAICS industries that had over 2.5 times the national average concentration of either of these occupation groups were defined as high-tech. The two subdomains were kept separate in the analysis and led to two different high-tech industry groups – STEM Core and STEM Health Care.

table 1

Idaho did not fare well in many of the metrics for either high-tech group, but there were a few where the state stood out.

Table 2


Idaho made up 0.4 percent of all the STEM Core employment, ranking 38th among the states for which data were available, and not surprising considering the small population. Among the surrounding states, Washington ranked ninth at 3.4 percent, Oregon 26th at 1.2 percent and Utah 28th at 1.1 percent. Wyoming landed at the bottom of the list with only 0.2 of a percent of STEM Core employment.

For total STEM Core employment, Washington remained the highest among the surrounding states, ranking second nationally at 12.8 percent of total state employment behind Washington, D.C. Utah ranked 11th with 9.6 percent of its employment in the STEM Core industries. All other regional states fell below the average of 8.4 percent. Idaho ranked 25th at 7.4 percent.

STEM Core employment was strongly affected by the recession, causing the average employment to decline 0.3 percent between 2002 and 2002. All but two states surrounding Idaho bucked the trend and recorded employment growth in STEM Core industries. Utah led the way with a 29 percent increase in payrolls followed by Wyoming at 18.8 percent, Washington at 17.9 percent and Montana with 15.5 percent. These growth rates were some of the best among the states with available data and landed all four states in the top 10 nationally. Nevada and Idaho both lost more than the national average – Nevada dropping 5.9 percent and Idaho 6.4 percent.

Table 3

STEM Core earnings per worker varied among the states, but Washington topped the region at over $107,000, high enough to rank third nationally. All other states in the region came in below the average of $92,200. Idaho ranked 39th with earnings per worker of $71,424.

Table 4         Table 5

Idaho fared much better when comparing STEM Core earnings to average earnings for all jobs. Washington still ranked the highest, leading the nation with STEM Core earnings 205.4 percent higher than Washington’s all industry average earnings per worker. Oregon ranked fifth at 198.4 percent, and Idaho was seventh at 196.1 percent, well above the national average of 188 percent.

Idaho’s percentage of national STEM Health Care employment ranked similarly to STEM Core employment – half a percent to place 40th. Nevada had slightly more employment in these industries than Idaho. Washington still led the region at 2 percent, ranking 18th nationally.

Table 6       Table 7

In terms of relative employment, most of the states in the region ranked in the bottom 10 of the states. Montana, the only state with a higher concentration of STEM Health Care employment than the average, was barely above the average to rank 27th. Idaho follows next with 11.6 percent of its employment in STEM Health Care industries, ranking 33rd. All the other regional states rank in the bottom ten spots.

In contrast to STEM Core industry employment, STEM Health Care employment had a good decade for growth. All states with data posted increases between 2002 and 2012. Idaho did quite well with payrolls expanding 33.4 percent to rank sixth nationally. Only Utah was ahead of Idaho in the region with 35.5 percent growth. Oregon, Montana and Washington were the only regional states to be below the national average of 24.8 percent, but all ranked in the top half of states.

TAble 8

Unfortunately Idaho did not fare as well in earnings per worker. At $42,241, Idaho ranked last among states. Utah and Montana were not far ahead at 46th and 40th. Nevada, which did not rank well on many metrics, topped the region in earnings per worker for STEM Health Care at $57,358 to rank third nationally. Washington and Oregon joined Nevada in the top 10 nationally, the only states in the region above the average.

Table 9

Idaho improved substantially when looking at relative earnings per worker. At 116 percent, Idaho ranked 14th overall. Nevada, Montana and Oregon all came in above Idaho to land in the top 10. While all states in the region come in above the average of 104.6 percent, this high-tech group pays notably less than STEM Core industries.

Table 10

For a full list of how all the states ranked plus a detailed look at the methodology used and how the nation overall has fared see “The High-Tech Industrial and Occupational Cluster: National and State Comparisons” posted on the Workforce Information Council’s website, regional economist
(208) 332-3570, ext. 3455


Soft Skills: A Key to Getting Ahead in Your Job Search and Career

It’s becoming more common for employers to favor job candidates who have soft skills over those with only technical skills. While technical, job-related skills can usually be taught, soft skills are more difficult to learn.

In a recent soft skills workshop at the Idaho Department of Labor’s Meridian office, a panel of four employers was asked the following question: If you had two job candidates, one who had eight out of 10 technical skills and was equipped with noticeable soft skills, and the other had 10 out of 10 technical skills but exhibited poor soft skills, who would you hire?

The panel members, made up of human resource professionals, hiring managers and business owners, unanimously agreed: They would hire the candidate with stronger soft skills despite the fact the other candidate had more technical skills.

So what are soft skills and why are they so important when searching for and maintaining employment? According to the panelists, the most desirable soft skills for employees to exhibit include: ability to stay on task, solve problems and show up to work on time; a positive attitude, dependability, effort and an aptitude to work with others and handle stress.

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Idaho Experiences Post-Recession Job Growth

Idaho’s post-recession job growth gained steam during the past two years, with the recovery concentrated in the state’s 11 metropolitan counties.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the state lost over 50,000 jobs from 2007 to 2010, two-thirds from the traditionally better-paying goods production sector. Idaho’s 33 rural counties – those not part of a federally designated metropolitan statistical area – lost a slightly higher proportion of jobs than urban counties, but those same rural counties hung on to many more manufacturing jobs than metro areas.

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