Manufacturing in Southwestern Idaho Offers Opportunity

Launching a new career, or considering changing a current one, can be daunting and even more so during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. But In spite of the negative effects of the pandemic on many industries, manufacturing  can offers opportunities.

Manufacturing is an evolving industry, especially in southwestern Idaho ranging from semi-conductor chip manufacturing to potato chip manufacturing. The skill levels of the workforce over the past couple of decades have changed dramatically as manufacturing is more automated and less physically demanding in many cases. Markets have changed with more global opportunities for Idaho products.

The highest level of manufacturing among Idaho’s six regions is in southwestern Idaho with more than 30,000 jobs across its 10 counties – 47 percent of all Idaho manufacturing jobs. South central Idaho has the next largest share at just 15 percent. The southwestern region’s 10 counties are diverse and include the state’s largest metropolitan area, Boise, remote small counties with logging traditions and vast counties citing its greatest population density as sagebrush and four-legged beef cattle. The share of manufacturing jobs in southwestern Idaho is higher than the nation’s by 4 percent but ranks fifth in share among Idaho’s six regions — the other five regions have significantly fewer total jobs than southwestern Idaho. The trend is showing some downward movement due to reduced production by large tech employers such as HP and Micron.

Manufacturing has three decidedly positive traits that contribute to the economy.

  • Higher-than-average industry wages
  • A diverse staffing pattern and well-defined career ladders
  • High job multipliers
Industry Wages

The first standout characteristic is the average industry wage that includes all occupations within a company from top management to the person who turns off the lights each night. Comparing manufacturing wages with the average wage of all industries is shown in Chart 2. In every Idaho region, average manufacturing wages surpass the average industry wage, but the percentage difference varies drastically by region ranging from 16 percent to 58 percent.

Southwestern Idaho’s high manufacturing wages tower above the other five regions due primarily to its cluster of high tech industry that employs highly skilled engineers, research and development professionals, quality control scientists and analysts, IT professionals and executives. These occupations command high salaries and bonus programs. However, there are other manufacturing operations in southwestern Idaho that require levels of talent with supervisory skills, journeyman trade designations or programmable logic control training, all in great demand and rewarded accordingly, though typically not as much as the tech industries. Almost without exception, manufacturing operations will provide a good wage, a solid benefit package and reward for longevity, production and quality.

Job Diversity

When reviewing both staffing patterns and jobs postings for manufacturing operations, the results indicate quantity, quality and diversity of jobs. While a manufacturing plant is usually not co-located with the company headquarters, it still demands a plethora of positions to support it. Table 1 shows the top 10 occupations for manufacturing in southwestern Idaho based on its percentage of the industry, according to EMSI Inc., an economic modeling company. Many of the jobs requiring bachelor’s or advanced degrees are not needed in large numbers so do not meet the larger share of the industry criteria.

This segues to the career ladders that are available and definable in manufacturing. Career Atlas, an interactive tool created by Idaho Career and Technical Education, allows users to research advancement opportunities. Using icons and drop-down menus, Career Atlas provides wages, skills, education needed and demand for specific occupations  The pay can be decidedly higher by getting a foot in the door and following a career ladder compared with many service jobs that accompany the growing share of aging population.

Job Multipliers

Research has shown job multipliers are very high in manufacturing. Many economic developers throughout the state have witnessed this in a couple of different ways. When a new manufacturer is attracted to an area,  jobs are created by the necessary supply chain businesses — these can be deep supply chains that require a lot of businesses to support it or shallow — meaning only a few businesses are needed depending on the widget being produced. These businesses and services may be suppliers, utilities, construction, transportation and even food services, spurring growth in those jobs. These are referred to as initial jobs, direct jobs, indirect jobs and induced jobs. Usually the induced jobs represent the largest number of jobs and are sprinkled throughout the community including occupations such as a bank teller, grocery store cashier, movie ticket attendant and realtor. Induced jobs grow based on population growth to support the community. It is a synergetic relationship and, in the reverse, can be very disruptive should a manufacturer pull out of a community.

Examples of the top job multipliers in southwestern Idaho are provided in Table 2. The highest according to EMSI, is Other Animal Food Manufacturing with a jobs multiplier of 6.262 — for every initial job created by a company in this industry, it is estimated another 5.262 jobs are created throughout the region. The average wages are modeled by EMSI and include benefits and bonuses, not just wages. Semiconductor and related device manufacturing show the highest average earnings, but employment has fallen by 38 percent since 2001. Similar declines have been reported nationally. The high multipliers for food processing make sense as the production of crops requires many inputs such as fertilizer, herbicides and fungicides in collaboration with services and equipment such as programmable pivot irrigation systems, implement dealerships and labor. The dairy industry has its own set of services that are needed to ensure the herds are well cared for including veterinary and supplies.

The goods producing industries that include manufacturing, construction and agriculture are all critical aspects of southwestern Idaho’s economy and are wealth builders. Manufacturing can pull a community together with the common goal of providing a product for the global community and has the potential to offer a career for those just entering the workforce or those wishing to change careers., regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 735-2500 ext 3639