Idaho Population Changes: Where are People Coming From and Going To?

Population Growth – Idaho Tops Nation

Last December, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Idaho’s population totaled 1.72 million, and grew at a rate of 2.2 percent from mid-2016 to mid-2017. This was the fastest growth rate in the nation and three times faster than the national average of 0.7 percent. Of Idaho’s neighboring states, Nevada was second with 2.0 percent growth and Utah, with 1.9 percent, was third. Wyoming’s population declined by 1 percent to 579,300 – one of just five states to see a decline during this time.

The Census Bureau’s components of change only reveal broad categories of Idaho’s population growth – natural increase and net-migration.  Of the 36,917 new residents to Idaho, only 28 percent was the result of natural increase – births minus deaths – while 72 percent was from in-migration, primarily domestic.

Idaho’s Total In-Migration

So where are these people coming from who are moving to Idaho? The 2016 American Community Survey state-to-state migration tables, the most recent data available, can provide some answers. According to the Census Bureau, about 80,000 people were new residents to Idaho in 2016. Of those, 17,000, or about 21 percent, were from California – the largest single source of new Idaho residents, followed by Washington at 9,300.  Almost 8,500 of new Idaho residents came from a foreign country, the third largest source of in-migration, representing 9.5 percent of the total. Eight of the top 10 sources of in-migration were western states.

Idaho’s Total Out-Migration

Inversely, nearly 55,800 residents moved out of Idaho. The primary destination states were Washington, Utah, Oregon and California – the aggregate of which is almost 53 percent of the total of people who moved from Idaho. Texas, Michigan, Colorado and Wisconsin also made the top 10 out-migration destinations.

The American Community Survey does not include the number of people moving from Idaho to a foreign country. Excluding those numbers from a net calculation, about 15,800 more people from other states moved to Idaho than moved away. Adding those who moved from a foreign country to Idaho increases the total to about 24,200.

Idaho’s Net-Migration

Although Idaho exchanged population with nearly all states, it was not an even exchange.

On net, Idaho gained more in-migration from 28 other states than it lost to those states in out-migration. The total balance of residents gained from other states was nearly 28,600, with 47 percent from California – retaining its rank as the largest single source of people moving into Idaho.

Inversely, 19 states gained more people from Idaho through out-migration than were replaced with people from those states, for net total out of about 12,800. Three of those states – neighboring Washington, Utah and Oregon – together represented 48 percent of Idaho’s in-migration in 2016. Despite Washington’s second place rank for total in-migration, on net it was the primary destination for those moving out of Idaho.

Labor Force Growth

Population growth does not necessarily translate to equivalent growth in the labor force. The most recent figures show Idaho’s labor force grew 2.6 percent from December 2016 to December 2017. Despite leading the nation in population growth, Idaho trailed behind its neighboring states in the growth of people 16 or older who are employed or unemployed but looking for work. Oregon’s labor force grew the fastest of the neighboring states at 3.8 percent followed by Utah at 3.4 percent.

Idaho’s Urbanization

Idaho’s population growth is concentrated in the urban areas. From 2000 to 2015, its nine urban counties grew by 37 percent while rural counties grew by 9 percent. By 2026, based on Idaho Department of Labor population projections, urban population will grow by 65 percent above 2000 levels – four times as fast as rural counties with 16 percent.

Craig.Shaul@labor.idaho.gov,
regional economist supervisor
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 332-3570 ext. 3201

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