Idaho’s hottest jobs over the next decade – identified by the Idaho Department of Labor’s 2012-2022 Long-Term Occupational Projections – continue to place health care occupations at the top even in the south central region, but the other top occupations differ, reflecting the unique qualities of the region’s economy and labor pool.
Hot jobs are identified as those greatest in number, with the strongest growth rate and the highest wage.
While generally in demand, health care workers are especially sought after in rural Idaho, where communities have among the lowest ratio of health care professionals in the nation.
Registered nurse is the hottest job in south central Idaho. With a median annual income of over $55,000, the demand for registered nurses in the region by 2022 will increase 21 percent – another 26 jobs a year – on top of the 25 openings each year to replace nurses who left for retirement or other work. Registered nursing is also the hottest job in north central and southeastern Idaho.
The demand was less in northern, southwestern and eastern Idaho. In fact, registered nurse ranked 36th on the list of hot jobs in northern Idaho, with a median hourly wage of $30.61, four dollars higher than south central Idaho’s hourly wage and slightly less than Washington’s median hourly wage of $31.84. The difference may be due in part to northern Idaho’s proximity to Spokane, and generally higher wages paid in Washington.
October’s Help Wanted Online report showed registered nurses in south central Idaho at a 10 percent vacancy rate to rank 22nd among all occupations. The openings were approximately the same as the previous year, indicating some stability. This is an occupation, however, where employers maintain listings constantly as a way of identifying top quality candidates who are always in demand. The practice is typically justified by the rapid growth of health care and the need to maintain a talent pipeline to meet an ever-increasing demand.
Education for hot occupations like pharmacist can be competitive, expensive and may require travel or relocation. These issues can make it a tough sell for Magic Valley residents making career choices. Online education or distance learning options for this occupation are limited in that many of these jobs require training in clinical settings as part of the curriculum. The closest health care university is Pocatello.
Entry-Level Jobs Requiring Less than a College Degree
Some jobs require less education and fewer skills, and others may pay even more than expected due to working conditions, irregular work hours or the type of duties required. A few of these jobs are among the hot jobs in south central Idaho – possibly because it is the only region without a metropolitan area. To some extent the other regions have concerns about enough people to do jobs requiring physical labor such as field and orchard harvesting or thinning orchard trees — jobs that are time consuming and physically difficult, but these jobs provide opportunities for some workers.
Truck Drivers, Heavy and Trailer
For the first time in at least six years, truck driving dropped out of the top 15 hottest jobs in south central Idaho, ranking 51st, while the occupation remained in the top 15 in the other parts of the state.
In south central Idaho truck drivers are traditionally in high demand, especially for trailer-tractors and heavy trucks, because many employers are vertically integrated with their own trucking operations. Fleet operators contract with manufacturers, wholesalers and producers. Agriculture and trade drive the regional demand. Commodities have to move from the field to processors or other users near or far, and as the retail center for a 150-mile radius, Twin Falls merchants need inventory.
The confluence of interstate and other highways in south central Idaho makes trucking a preferred mode of transportation. Rail may be less expensive, but according to farmers and producers there are times when rail cars are left on sidings for days or weeks while more profitable or larger shipments become the carrier’s priority. However, the concern may be easing as the demand for truck drivers decreases compared to other hot jobs.
The Conference Board’s October 2014 Help Wanted Online report, compiling thousands of job listings from across the Internet, showed job openings for truck drivers in south central Idaho fell 18 percent from the previous October — from 261 to 214. That created a vacancy rate of 7 percent, meaning employers were looking to fill 7 percent of the average number of truck driving jobs – ranking 32nd among occupations in the region. While a different method of measuring demand, the Help Wanted Online vacancy rate ranking comes close to mirroring the department’s hot jobs ranking. The difference is the Conference Board’s vacancy rate reflects all openings – new and replacement – while the Labor Department projections separate the two.
Replacement openings essentially reflect turnover and correlate with a skill level required for a specific occupation. Occupations with the highest turnover are typically lower paying and require fewer skills. These jobs are often filled by workers who are temporarily making ends meet while pursuing more education, training or using the job as stepping stone to higher-level jobs with more responsibility and better paychecks. Jobs with lower replacement rates tend to be more skill-based and pay better.
Most higher-paying jobs are considered career jobs, and some are gender heavy occupations such as construction jobs and clerical positions. The majority of wage earners are doing what they need to provide for a lifestyle or for a family, but workers in the high replacement rate jobs tend to be doing so out of need and not what they may want to pursue as a career.
Total jobs should increase 12,900 in south central Idaho to total nearly 100,000 between 2012 and 2022 — an annual growth rate of 1.4 percent. In addition, there will be another 19,000 openings to replace workers who retire, die or move to other jobs.
Meanwhile the region’s working-age population – those ages 15 to 64 – is projected to increase by just 300 according to Economic Modeling Specialists International. That leaves a gap of more than 12,000 between the anticipated new jobs and the number of additional workers to fill those jobs. If the workforce is not there, the new jobs will not materialize.
This is not just a regional problem. The state faces a possible gap of 95,000 between the projected new jobs through 2022 and the increase in its working-age population.
As in the past, technology and automation will take care of some of the deficit as will normal declines in the business cycle. Additional training throughout a worker’s life must be a goal for Idaho to keep up with a global economy and growing as projections suggest.
Jan.Roeser@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 735-2500 ext 3639