Idaho is home to an estimated 116,157 veterans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey1. That translates to a 9.1% share of the state’s overall population of individuals 18 years and older compared with the nation’s 18,230,322 veterans at a share of 7.3% of total population 18 years and older.
Data on where veterans and other characteristics are gathered for myriad reasons:
- State and federal officials determine how and where to provide government services to assist veterans in all aspects of returning to civilian life. Some veterans find their specific jobs in the military do not transition to the civilian workforce, such as personnel who load armaments or who are involved in large-scale field logistics. At the county and state government levels, staff are assigned to help veterans find jobs, provide college and career counseling and making sure they understand their military benefits. Some federal jobs provide preference to veteran hiring by giving additional points to a job application. It is helpful to have someone who knows how to help newly-separated military veterans navigate these benefits.
- It helps to know where veterans are living, so when Veteran Administration officials decide where to locate clinics, hospitals and long-term care facilities, they are placed in a centralized spot for access.
- Many private employers prefer to hire veterans based on the levels of discipline and training that translates to resilience and solid work ethic.
The largest number of veterans reside in Ada County and combined with Canyon and Elmore counties, accounts for about 40% of the state’s veteran population.
Figure: Idaho Veteran Populations by County
Elmore County, home to Mountain Home Air Force Base just 12 miles southwest of Mountain Home, has the highest concentration of military veterans in the state. MHAFB and the community of Mountain Home have grown symbiotically since the base opened in 1943. The communities share schools and social activities, developing a close-knit group through mutual support and collaboration. The community has organized an annual Air Force Appreciation Day for the past 60 years to recognize the strong relationship. Almost one of every four residents above the age of 18 in Elmore County is a military veteran. The selection of Idaho as a permanent residence after retirement or discharge shows up in the data.
By a large margin, most veterans in Idaho and across the nation are male. In Idaho, males comprise 92% of all veterans while females comprise 8% of the population. This is roughly the same as the nation’s gender ratio at 91% to 9%.
The Pew Research Center estimates by 2045, the rate of women veterans nationwide will double while male veterans will be cut in half. Racial diversity is also expected to double in some cases such as Hispanic ethnicity, while veterans on average are expected to be younger in 2045.
Idaho’s ratio of veterans in each age category correlates with the nation. Although Idaho has a larger share of veterans ages 55 to 74 as shown in Chart 1, the 75 years and older category has the largest divergence from the nation at 1.1 percent.
In the 2019 American Community Survey report, Idaho ranks 10th nationally based on the veteran share of population. Contiguous states ‒ Montana, Wyoming and Washington ‒ ranked higher in concentration than Idaho. According to the Veterans Administration, from 2000 to 2019, the share of veteran population has dropped by an average of 25% across the 50 states and District of Columbia (Appendix Table 1). This is visually apparent as Idaho was ranked 16th in 2014 with a larger share of veterans than its 10th ranking in 2019. The passing of older veterans and the 1973 move from drafting to an all-volunteer military are major drivers of this nationwide decrease.
Idaho’s military veteran labor force is estimated at 43,963, according to the most recent 5-Year ACS. The military veteran labor force is defined as those working or looking for work between the ages of 18 to 64. The overall veteran population for that age group is estimated at 58,203. The participation rate in the veteran labor force is calculated estimating those individuals either working or actively seeking work as a ratio of the overall 18-to-64-age veteran population group.
The most recent ACS reports Idaho veterans in Idaho with a lower participation rate in the labor force at 74.7% compared with the non-veteran population at 76.2%. The population estimate for the 18-to-64 age range for all residents in Idaho is just over one million. The county participation rates for veterans range from 45% to100%, with much of the extreme rates found in smaller communities with a smaller veteran presence.
The lower participation rate for veterans makes sense since retirees are usually covered with a defined benefit plan and health care provisions that, in aggregate with Social Security, provides a livable income. The need to seek additional work may be for fun money or for social reasons. This is not the case for younger veterans ages 18 to 34, who number an estimated 8,419 in Idaho.
Unemployment rates by county for military veterans are shown on Map 2. The rates are calculated on data averaged over 2014 and 2019, not taking into consideration consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figure: Idaho Veterans Unemployment Rates by County
15-year average 2014-2019
2 Bialek, Kristen, “The changing face of America’s veteran population,” Factank, November 10, 2017, pewresearch.org
Appendix Table 1
Jan.Roeser@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 735-2500 ext. 3639