Idaho Average Wage Rises as Employment Composition Changed

Idaho recorded a sharp increase in the statewide average wage in 2020. Nominal wages grew by 7.7% and real wages grew by 6.4%, outpacing wage growth over the past decade. Annual average wages for the state are shown in Figure 2-1.

Wages are expressed in both nominal terms and real wages, with real wages adjusted for inflation using the consumer price index. Following a precipitous drop in 2008, Idaho’s average real wage remained largely flat with an average growth rate of about 0.1%. Growth picked up in 2014 and remained steady, keeping up with inflation through 2020.Apart from the mining industry, wage growth in 2020 kept up with inflation in all industry sectors.

Figure 2-2 shows the average annual wage in different industry sectors. Retail trade and leisure and hospitality (comprised of arts, entertainment and recreation as well as accommodations and food services), when combined, accounted for 22% of all jobs in the state, but paid the lowest wages of all industry sectors. On the other end of the spectrum, the highest paying industries – utilities and mining – accounted for less than 1% of the jobs.

Total wage growth was dominated by professional and business services with the average annual nominal wage climbing from $55,000 in 2019 to $59,700 in 2020 – an 8.4% growth. A booming housing market propped up growth in financial services and construction. Financial activities grew by close to 1,000 jobs and saw a 15.6% increase in average wage, from $59,451 in 2019 to $68,795. Construction, which saw significant job growth, had a more modest wage growth of 5.1%. The information sector is a hodgepodge of different activities including movie theatres, software companies, newspaper publishing and television stations.

Some of Idaho’s rapid growth in overall wages reflects a pandemic-induced employment shift. Thousands of workers left or lost lower paying jobs in information, leisure and hospitality, and other services (see Figure 2-2), leaving the higher-paying industries showing the greatest gains.

This article is an excerpt from the “Idaho Labor Market and Economic Report 2020” which is based on data available through March 2021.