Monthly Archives: September 2014

September Economic Activity Around Idaho

Information provided in this article has been gathered from various sources throughout the state, including local newspapers and other media.

Northern Idaho
North Central Idaho
Southwestern Idaho
South Central Idaho
Southeastern & Eastern Idaho


  • For the first time since 1996, cheese is Idaho’s largest export. Milk products have always been a major export with whey and dry milk powder leaders. Almost three-quarters of Idaho’s dairy production is in southern Idaho, where several large milk product plants including Chobani and Glanbia are located. Idaho was the fourth-largest dairy producing state in the nation last year after New York, California and Wisconsin. This year, it’s on track to take New York’s spot at No. 3.
  • The value of all goods and services sold in Idaho rose more than twice as fast as the national average last year, but per capita output still ranked among America’s lowest, new federal data show. Idaho’s inflation-adjusted gross state product increased 4.1 percent in 2013, the fifth-highest rate of growth, lagging only North Dakota, Wyoming, West Virginia and Oklahoma, according to a U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The state ranked 50th in the per capita value of real gross state product at $36,000. Growth slowed in the second half of 2013. Fourth-quarter output occurred at a rate of nearly $58 billion a year in 2009 dollars., regional economist
(208) 332-3570 ext. 3455

NORTHERN IDAHO – Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and  Shoshone counties

Regional Developments

  • The Avista Foundation has awarded a $10,000 grant to St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho to help purchase a building from the city of Coeur d’Alene as a one-stop location for 24 different human care services in collaboration with 19 different agencies.
  • Avista has filed its 2014 Natural Gas Integrated Resource Plan with state regulators in Washington, Idaho and Oregon. The plan forecasts sufficient natural gas resources well into the future, indicating access to natural gas supply through the acquisition of additional pipeline resources will not be needed until 2034 or later. The plan is submitted to the public utility commissions every two years as part of Avista’s regulatory commitment.

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Idaho’s Public Colleges Face Challenges – Part Two

Part two of a two-part article.

Part one of this article covered the impact of economic pressures on the changing enrollments at colleges and how to increase the number of high school graduates who will go on to postsecondary education.

Not Ready for College

American high schools are graduating many students who are not prepared for college and consequently, much less likely to complete college than their better-prepared peers or take longer when they do graduate. According to the College Board, which writes and administers the SAT examination used by colleges to access candidates’ readiness for college, about a quarter of Idaho’s high school juniors who took the exam in April 2013 were prepared for college based on their scores in critical reading, mathematics and writing. The ACT, another exam commonly required for college entrance, showed only 26 percent of Idaho students hit benchmarks in all four categories—English, reading, mathematics and science.

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Idaho’s Public Colleges Face Challenges – Part One

Part one of a two-part article.

To compete with other states and globally, Idaho’s economy needs a skilled workforce. Postsecondary education is the key to developing those skills to innovate and thrive. Education also helps raise the quality of life of workers who receive schooling as well as for their families. Recognizing rising skill levels for many jobs and the importance of higher education in making the Idaho economy competitive, the Idaho State Board of Education set an ambitious goal for 60 percent of Idahoans 25 to 34 years old to have a degree or certificate by 2020.

To achieve this goal, Idaho’s public schools must increase student enrollment and retention. But they will be facing some headwinds. Throughout the United States colleges are under economic pressure, and a growing number of private schools are likely to face bankruptcy as pressure mounts as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Student Drought Hits Smaller Universities,” dated July 25, 2014.

Global competition is intensifying. The United States was the world leader in educational attainment until the 1990s. In recent years, many countries have been producing degree-holders at a higher rate. In 2011, 42 percent of Americans ages 25 to 34 had associate, bachelor’s or advanced degrees, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. lagged South Korea’s 63 percent, Japan’s 58 percent, Canada’s 56 percent, Ireland’s 48 percent, Britain’s 48 percent, Norway’s 47 percent, Luxembourg’s 46 percent, New Zealand’s 45 percent, Israel’s 44 percent and Austria’s 43 percent. In the United States, the public-private balance of expenditure on postsecondary education is nearly the reverse of the average across other OECD countries. In the U.S., public sources provide 36 percent of spending on higher education while the other nations average 68 percent.

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Idaho Projects Workforce Gap in Energy Industry

Jobs in the utilities sector will grow a percentage point faster through 2022 than jobs overall in Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Labor’s long-term industry projections estimate job growth in utilities will hit 17.3 percent between 2012 and 2022 compared with 16.2 percent for all jobs in the state.

While this growth in the utilities industry is good news, especially considering that the Idaho Department of Labor estimates the annual average wage in this sector at $66,697, the need for new workers raises the question of whether the state will have enough workers with the right skills to meet the demand.

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Do Tipped Employees Need to be Paid Minimum Wage?

All Idaho workers must receive an hourly minimum wage for time worked, but things get a little trickier with tipped employees.

firstjobTo be considered a tipped employee, one must regularly receive more than $30 per month in tips.

While tipped employees don’t have to be paid minimum wage directly from their employer, the employee’s combined hourly wage plus tips must equal the minimum wage of the state where they are employed. The hourly wage of a tipped employee must also meet at least the federal minimum cash wage of $2.13 per hour.

Idaho state law requires employers to pay tipped employees above the federal tipped minimum wage. Idaho, with a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, requires employers to pay tipped employees a minimum cash wage of $3.35 per hour.

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Recent College Grads Face Challenges in Recession Aftermath

New college graduates faced a tough job market during the recession, but since 2010 the market has improved slightly every year. Early indications suggest that 2014 saw more significant improvements in Idaho and the nation.

Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the unemployment rate for 20- to 29-year-olds with bachelor’s degrees but nothing higher peaked in 2009 at 17.6 percent, nearly double the 9 percent in 2007. The rate declined to 14.9 percent in 2010, dropped to 13.5 percent in 2011 and then fell to 8.8 percent in 2013.

Recent college grads faced a labor market full of degree holders laid off during the severe recession. The number of people turning 18 peaked in 2009, while the portion of young adults in the United States who completed a four-year college degree hit a record high in 2012. A full third of 25-to-29-year-olds now hold degrees. The rate of young adults earning a bachelor’s degree rose from 28 percent in 2006 to 33 percent in 2013. The increase partly reflects a long-term trend. In 1971, only 17 percent of young adults had four-year degrees. That intensified as the recession nixed job opportunities, spurring college enrollment. Idaho also saw record numbers of students graduating from college in recent years.

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Workforce Consultant Uses Radio Show to Reach Out to Spanish-Speaking Job Seekers


One Idaho Department of Labor employee has partnered with radio station KBWE, Radio Voz Latina, to connect with thousands of Spanish-speaking Mini-Cassia residents on workforce issues and employment trends.

Chet Jeppesen, a bilingual workforce consultant from the Burley office, covers a variety of topics at 9 a.m. every Friday. The show was originally planned for 15 minutes but it proved so informative, it was increased to an hour.

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Idaho Wages Leanest for Young Workers

Wages grow with age, but there is a point of diminishing return where retirement may be a better alternative to continuing to work with scant hope for increasingly higher pay. In Idaho for example, cost of living adjustments yielded greater increases for retirees than state workers experienced on their paychecks during the Great Recession.

This depends on the industry, however. There are a number with older leadership and workforce such as utilities, education and agriculture. The mid-life years of 45 to 54 are the peak wage-earning time.

Average Monthly Wage

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How Idaho License Plates Benefit At-Risk Youth

Did you know you can help Idaho’s young people stay out of trouble by simply buying a license plate?

In 2000 Idaho became the first state in the nation to create America’s Promise Youth license plates.

License plate sales support Idaho’s at-risk youth by funding activities outside of school hours. The program’s goal is to reduce drug and alcohol use, gang activity and school dropout rates among Idaho’s school-age children.

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Think Big Festival Brings Robotics to Idaho

Nick Smoot and Ryan Arnold wanted to create a hub for robotics startup companies in Coeur d’Alene. This would be done through a collaboration of entrepreneurs, businesses and community leaders to create Innovation Collective. What transpired was beyond their wildest dreams.

A robot from the University of Idaho on display.

A robot from the University of Idaho on display.

On Aug. 15 the first Think Big Festival brought 250 attendees to North Idaho College to hear from experts in the field of robotics. Smoot and Arnold were able to bring in Yoshikazu Kanamiya, a 35-year robotics professor from Japan. Kanamiya has worked extensively on medical robotics to help the elderly. Smoot said he wanted to bring Kanamiya back again during his upcoming sabbatical to advance medical rehab and robotics. Representatives from Kootenai Health, University of Idaho and Jobs Plus have also joined with Innovation Collective to work together and move medical robotics forward.

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