Idaho Women Fare Better in Traditional Trades

As Idaho’s economy continues to flourish, wages are also increasing. Accounting for statewide job growth from 2012 forward, Idaho has seen a 2 percent to 3 percent increase in total annual private sector wage growth, up 17 percent over the past decade. Wage growth rate variances depend on an array of factors including economic situation, location, industry, job growth and demand. Demographics also show a distinction in wage appropriation and growth with gender as a demographic that is frequently discussed.

Traditionally, men and woman have held different, but essential roles in America’s economic success. Initially women filled specific, ‘white collar’ service occupations such as clerical and administrative. As time passed women integrated themselves into all industries, especially during World War II when they stepped into jobs typically held by men. Another shift occurred when men returned from the war to their jobs.

Many factors play a role in the gender wage gap scenario nationwide dating back to the beginning of American history. Of particular interest are the trade industries, where men dominated throughout time and the return of women after a prolonged absence has created a unique paradigm shift. Wages for both males and females vary in how they changed, the narrowing of the wage gap and the female comeback in traditional trades.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau (2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates), Bureau of Labor Statistics, Idaho Department of Labor

In Idaho from 2015 to 2016, women’s median annual earnings increased in every major industry sector, though some industries saw far more wage growth for females than in others. In the utilities industry, for example, median annual earnings for women increased from $31,702 in 2015 to a whopping $55,739 in 2016. There was also notable wage growth in the financial activities and professional, scientific and technical services. Also noteworthy is the management of companies and enterprises – one of the highest-paying industries for women –  experienced minimal wage change over the past year. Overall, Idaho is seeing significant wage growth, but this is also a nationwide trend. A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics release graded each state by median weekly earnings for women in 2016; Idaho ranked 49th out of 50.

The same Bureau of Labor Statistics release stated, “At 76.5 percent, women’s earnings as a percent of men’s in Idaho ranked 43rd in the nation out of 50 states and the District of Columbia.” This percentage has fluctuated erratically over the past several decades, ranging from a low in 1998 of 71.2 percent to a high in 2013 of 87.6 percent. Figures for 2016 have situated near the middle of this range at 76.5 percent. To use the informal phrase comparing women’s wages to men, this means women make 77 cents on the dollar.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau (2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates), Bureau of Labor Statistics, Idaho Department of Labor

Figure 2 depicts female earnings in Idaho as a percentage of male earnings in 2016 by industry. In some industries Idaho women fare well compared with their male counterparts. For instance in construction, women’s median wage as a percentage of men’s was 93.9 percent. In other industries, Idaho women struggle to see comparable median wages with their male counterparts. In professional, scientific and technical services women earned an estimated 61.1 percent of what the men did.

A close examination of these industries reveals an interesting assimilation. As shown in Figure 2, industries have been separated into two groups. The green group represents industries that likely hold most traditional trade occupations. The blue group represents the rest of the industries, typically service related.

When comparing the average women’s wage as a percentage of men’s for each of the categories shown on the graph, it becomes clear women fare better in traditional trade industries. Women earn 78 percent of what men earn in these traditional trade industries compared to 71 percent in the other group. This may be important to note because the occupations that fall into the traditional trade industries have been historically male dominated. This discrepancy is potentially telling us that women are seeing more equal median wages in industries where men have historically reigned.

Hope.Morrow@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 525-7268 ext. 4340

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