This is the second of a two-part article examining the age distribution of Idaho workers by sector at the regional level. Part one provided an overall view of worker ages across the state specifically by industry sector. Read Part 1.
The age distribution of Idaho workers is telling in terms of the future supply of labor.
Only 13 percent of the utility workers in northern and north central Idaho are under 35, and statewide just 15 percent of utility employees are under 35. At the same time, 40 percent of utility payrolls in southeastern and south central Idaho are aged 55 and older, and the share statewide is 33 percent.
(Note: to get the best view of charts in this article, click once to open in a larger window.)
In northern Idaho, 15 percent of the workers are between ages 14 and 24, a fifth between 25 and 34, 43 percent between 35 and 54, 17 percent between 55 and 64 and the remaining 5 percent 65 and older.
The 25 to 34 age group has a higher-than-average concentration in accommodation and food services, administrative support, waste management services and construction. The cohort has a lower-than-average concentration in utilities, educational services and government. The region reflects the state. The main concern is the undersupply of young workers in education. One obvious cause is the relatively low wage for the amount of education required to become an educator. Additionally, the proximity to higher wages for teachers in Washington likely draws these younger teachers over the border. To further complicate matters, nearly 30 percent of those in educational services in northern Idaho are over age 55.
On the other hand, the oversupply of young people in low-skill, low-wage administrative and support and waste and remediation services indicates this sector is an option for those without a degree or other skills. The high concentration in accommodations and food services underscores the resort-town culture in many communities.
One in every three workers in the utilities sector in the region is over age 55 while just 15 percent are under 35. Unless some of these younger individuals join the utilities sector later in life, it will face manpower problems.
North Central Region
In north central Idaho, 15 percent of the workers are ages 14 to 24, 20 percent 25 to 34, 42 percent 35 to 44, 18 percent 55 to 64 and 5 percent 65 and older.
Notable for the region is 28 percent of 25- to 35-year-olds are working in professional, scientific and technical services such as engineering, consulting and scientific research and development. That is eight percentage points more than the statewide average for the industry. This is likely due to the region’s two public universities, which graduate many of the states’ brightest minds. Some choose to remain in the area, where there is a relative lack of other employment opportunities of interest to young and educated people. While jobs in professional, scientific and technical services pay less in north central Idaho than in any other region, they remain $8,000 above the region’s average wage.
The jobs available at the University of Idaho and, to a lesser extent, Lewis-Clark State College have also kept the number of 35- to 44-year-olds in educational services from dipping as low as in other regions. There is only a three percentage point difference between that group’s concentration in educational services and the overall regional economy, the smallest gap in the state.
Similar to other regions, utilities and transportation and warehousing have relatively few 25- to 34-year-olds and an oversupply of workers ages 55 to 64. The shortage of younger workers might prove costly in the future for a region where a large part of the economy revolves around the movement of goods through Idaho’s only port in Lewiston.
In southwestern Idaho, 13 percent of workers are ages 14 to 24, 22 percent are 25 to 34, 45 percent 35 to 54, 15 percent 55 to 64 and 4 percent 65 and older.
Several issues confront southwestern Idaho. There is an oversupply of 25- to 34-year-olds in administrative support services, primarily call centers – accounting for 8 percent of the region’s jobs. They pay only about 68 percent of the regional average wage and require little to no education or training. The high share of young workers in this industry indicates an abundance of unskilled, uneducated labor in that group.
Despite the presence of the largest public university in the state, Boise State University, the southwestern region suffers from a shortage in young educational services workers just like the rest of the state – five percentage points below their concentration in the overall workforce of the region.
Few manufacturing jobs for those between ages 25 and 34 is problematic given the high-tech, high-wage and high-skill nature of that industry in southwestern Idaho. Peripheral computer products like printers and external hard drives and semiconductors comprise over a third of the manufacturing employment in the region and represent a significant force in Idaho’s economy. Besides computer products, many other types of advanced manufacturing exist. If more young people do not make their way into the industry, businesses will import labor from outside the state and will have to begin paying wages that will attract qualified workers to Idaho.
Finally, like the rest of the state, the southwestern region sees a shortage for workers ages 25 to 34 in government, transportation and warehousing and utilities and an oversupply in accommodations and food services.
South Central Region
Fourteen percent of workers in south central Idaho are ages 14 to 24, 21 percent are 25 to 34, 42 percent 35 to 54, 17 percent 55 to 64 and 6 percent 65 and older.
South central Idaho experiences a similar oversupply as southwestern Idaho of 25- to 34-year-olds in administrative and support services – four percentage points higher than their concentration in the overall regional workforce. But the region has an overrepresentation of workers ages 25 to 65 at the expense of the youngest and oldest age groups. This is a well-balanced workforce profile. Given the fact that food products manufacturing is a driving economic force, this is good news for the state and the region.
Similar to other regions around the state, utilities and transportation and warehousing are underrepresented among the younger age groups and extremely overrepresented in the older groups. Again, educational services lack a representative 25- to 34-year-old workforce, reflecting the inability of education to compete with other states and other sectors for young workers.
Fifteen percent of employed workers in southeastern Idaho are between ages 14 and 24. Twenty-two percent are 25 to 34, 42 percent 35 to 54, 17 percent 55 to 64 and 5 percent 65 and older.
The region has double the concentration of 25- to 34-year-olds in management of companies, although this sector accounts for only 0.7 percent of all jobs in the region. So while the percentage is high, those under age 35 hold about 250 of the 400 jobs in that sector, likely representative of just a few firms.
This age group also has a higher concentration in construction, finance and insurance than the state average. Twenty-nine percent of construction jobs in the region are held by workers ages 25 to 34 compared to just a quarter of construction jobs statewide.
But as in the rest of the state, this age group is underrepresented in transportation and warehousing, utilities and educational services, reflecting the need to create a workforce pipeline to increase the supply of labor in those sectors. In some cases, the shift to these sectors might occur for workers later in life.
Eastern Idaho’s workforce is comprised of 16 percent 14- to 24-year-olds, 22 percent 25 to 34, 42 percent 35 to 54, 15 percent 55 to 64 and 4 percent 65 and older.
The age composition in this region differs from the statewide economy in small ways. Most notably, those ages 25 to 34 are better represented in transportation and warehousing and utilities than in any other region. Manufacturing also has an above-average concentration of 25- to 34-year-olds, a good sign for the industry’s future, and construction has a high concentration of this age group.
But again there is a shortage of young people in educational services. Only about a fifth of workers in that sector are age 35 or younger, mirroring the Idaho average.
Ethan.Mansfield@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 332-3570 ext. 3455