Job Growth Struggles in Rural Idaho

Idaho’s economic recovery through February 2015 generated 13,000 more jobs than were lost – 27 percent more, while payrolls increased  20 percent – $698 million in goods production and $1.7 billion in services.

Idaho’s recovery from the recession took hold most strongly in the Boise metropolitan area while it took two more years for the four other metro areas to see marked job growth in 2013.

Even rural communities posted job growth early on, but once the momentum shifted to the urban parts of the state in 2013, rural job growth slowed after a summer uptick in 2014.

Using average wages for 2010, Idaho’s job loss in the recession totaled $1.5 billion from goods production and $424 million from services.

YOY job increase2010 marked the economic low point for Idaho as total jobs fell below 604,000 – a loss of over 51,000 jobs in less than three years.

Idaho’s recovery began slowly in late 2010 – just a few hundred jobs a month over the previous year, but by the next summer, the year-over-year gain began exceeding 10,000.

The five-county Boise metro area was generating the lion’s share of the new jobs joined by rural counties that were coming up with several thousand a month on their own through 2011. That grew to 3,000 to 4,000 a month in 2012 and the early months of 2013.

By spring of 2013, the economies of Idaho’s other urban areas began coming to life, and the momentum was shifting away from rural Idaho. Boise continued generating year-over-year job growth averaging almost 9,000 a month into 2014 while the other four metro areas were contributing another 5,000 a month on average.

In contrast, job growth in rural Idaho slipped to around 1,000 a month in late 2014, and rural Idaho posted job losses during the first two months of 2015, based on preliminary estimates of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Idaho Department of Labor.

By February 2015, the state had not only recovered all the jobs it had lost to the recession but  exceeded its prerecession job peak by nearly 9,500, but the recovery was due to the strong growth over the past two years in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls. All three had recovered lost jobs and more while Lewiston essentially matched its pre-recession high and Pocatello was still 900 jobs short of the peak.

Rural Idaho, despite its job growth early in the recovery, was still over 8,000 jobs short of the peak reached before the recession took hold. State of Job RecoveryOverall, Idaho’s job growth between February 2010 and February 2015 was among the strongest in the nation. Idaho recorded a 10.5 percent increase in jobs over those five years, better than all but 12 other states. The state also lost 7.6 percent of its jobs from February 2007 to February 2010 – over 48,000 – the 10th worst percentage loss in the nation.

While more than recovering the jobs lost during the downturn, Idaho economy’s has shifted in the kind of jobs it is creating.

Goods producing jobs, which pay on average over $12,000 a year more than service sector jobs, were hit hardest by the recession. More than 35,000 of those jobs disappeared during the downturn, nearly two-thirds of them in construction. In the recovery, Idaho has regained fewer than 13,000 of those jobs – only 7,000 in construction.

The service sector has generated the bulk of the new jobs in Idaho, consistent with the influx of older people from other states. Almost 49,000 of the 61,000 jobs created through February 2015 were in the service sector – 26,500 of them pay less than $30,000 a year.

Idaho’s average wage in 2014 was nearly $40,000 and the median wage where half the workers make more and half make less was just over $31,000.

Bob Fick, communications manager