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

The eroding economic power provided by individual jobs could be responsible for 64 percent of two-adult households where both adults were working in 2012. The state also has one of the highest rates of multiple jobholders. In 2013, 6.3 percent of workers had more than one job, a full percentage point and a third higher than the national rate.

The share of Idaho jobs paying a self-sufficiency wage has been declining since the national recession began in late 2007. Over the same period, median individual earnings in Idaho have gradually been losing ground to the nation. In 2008 as the expansion was ending and the recession beginning, median individual earnings in Idaho at $24,800 were 86.6 percent of the national median. In 2012, Idaho median earnings at $23,700 had fallen to 78.7 percent of the national median. The median is the point at which half the people earned more and half earned less.

The decline in annual earnings dropped Idaho’s ranking among the states and the District of Columbia from 43rd in 2007 and 46th in 2008 to last in 2011 and 2012.

Using the Idaho’s current Occupational Employment Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor’s annual calculation of the smallest amount families can live on without any kind of assistance, only 185,000 of 613,000 jobs – 30.1 percent – paid enough to support a family of four without additional assistance.

In 2013, the Idaho economy provided 198,000 of nearly 597,000 jobs that paid enough to support a family of four – 33.5 percent of all jobs. In 2008 just as the recession was beginning to take hold in Idaho, the economy provided 239,000 jobs of 649,000 – 37 percent – that paid enough to support a family of four.

The U.S. Department of Labor uses the Lower Living Standard Income Level to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs it runs under the Workforce Investment Act to help low-income workers and others with barriers to employment find jobs. For 2014, that wage to support a couple and two children was $42,378 a year – $20.37 an hour at a full-time job – for urban families and $41,849 – $20.12 an hour – for rural families.

The Lower Living Standard Income Level is keyed to an austere budget covering housing, clothing, food and other basic necessities. The monthly budget was last established by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1981 and has been adjusted for inflation since. It is the U.S. Department of Labor’s measure of minimum self-sufficiency.

FYI table 1

The income level is calculated for a family of four in both urban and rural settings in the four regions of the country – the Northeast, Midwest, South and West – and then statistically adjusted for households from one to six people. Except for specific income levels set for the Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas, the rest of the West including Idaho uses the same urban and rural incomes. Of Idaho’s 443,000 multiple-person households, about 32 percent have four people or more. About 48 percent have two people.

The major urban counties in Idaho, which typically have higher Lower Living Standard Income Levels, are Ada, Canyon, Kootenai, Nez Perce, Bannock and Bonneville.

The Idaho economy shed nearly 60,000 jobs during the recession – over half in goods production, which on average pays $10,000 a year more than jobs in the service sector. The economy has regained about three-quarters of the lost jobs, but the composition has been heavily weighted to the service side of the economy. By March 2014, Idaho had regained all the service jobs it lost plus another 12,200 while just a third of the 36,000 lost goods production jobs have been recovered – primarily construction and manufacturing.

Idaho is not expected to regain its pre-recession job total until 2015.

FYI table 2

Big table 3, communications manager
(208) 332-3570, ext. 3628