Idaho’s Long-term Employment Forecast Shows Steady Growth Through 2030

Idaho’s labor market is expected to continue its robust expansion through the end of the decade, according to new long-term employment projections from the Idaho Department of Labor.

The new estimates, which cover the period from 2020 to 2030, project an employment growth rate for Idaho of 1.5% per year, bringing total employment to 933,563 in 2030. This forecast is consistent with Idaho’s record of strong job creation in recent years – which includes rapid growth from 2010 to 2020, and an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that was among the strongest in the nation.

Idaho’s long-term projected growth rate of 1.5% is significantly higher than the national forecast. The most recent projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipate a national growth rate of approximately 0.7% annually – less than half the projected growth rate for Idaho. This is consistent with recent experience; Idaho has consistently been among the leaders in job growth among the states, and the growth rate in Idaho has exceeded the national rate nine years in a row, starting in 2012.

Figure 1: Annual Employment Growth, US and Idaho line chart

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Idaho Department of Labor

The state’s strong growth projections are also based in part on Idaho’s relatively high population growth. With population gains mostly stagnant across the country, individual states like Idaho are finding success by attracting new residents from other, higher-cost states. From 2010 to 2020, Idaho ranked second, behind Utah in population growth. Looking forward, the department projects population growth to remain high for Idaho in the coming decade, driving a robust demand in a variety of sectors, especially new home construction, health care and consumer services.

Among all economic sectors, construction (+21,000 jobs) and health care (+23,000), are projected to see the greatest job gains. Construction is projected to grow the fastest in Idaho through 2030, with an annual growth rate of 3.3%. This forecast is based on the extremely tight conditions prevailing in Idaho’s real estate markets – both commercial and residential. High population growth has left Idaho with a bare minimum inventory, rapid price growth and a high demand for new building construction. Accordingly, employment projections expect both residential and nonresidential building construction to grow at 4.3% and 6.3% per year, respectively. Population growth, as well as the continued aging of the state’s population, are expected to sustain strong growth in health care — projected at 1.9% per year.

The tremendous growth in these two sectors manifests itself in the state’s occupational projections. “Construction and extraction occupations” has the highest projected growth of all occupational categories, with more than 18,000 new jobs created by 2030. Health care occupations are also projected to see extremely high growth, with the creation of 16,000 new jobs. Twenty-nine of Idaho’s top 50 jobs – more than half – are either health care or construction occupations, with 15 construction jobs and 14 health care jobs in the top 50.

An ongoing societal shift from brick-and-mortar retail to e-commerce is expected to drive job gains away from retail trade (projected at only a 0.4% increase per year) toward transportation and warehousing (+1.7% per year), which includes fulfillment centers and delivery services. While retail trade is traditionally a far larger sector of the economy, growth in transportation and warehousing jobs is projected to be much faster in absolute terms – adding nearly 4,800 new jobs versus just 3,500 in retail.

Strong gains in Idaho manufacturing jobs are also expected to continue, with roughly 12,600 new jobs expected by 2030. Within this large and diverse sector, nearly half the job growth is expected in three specific industries of high importance — food manufacturing (+2,300 jobs), wood product manufacturing (+1,200) and computer and electronics manufacturing (+2,500).

Table: Idaho Long-Term Employment Projections by IndustrySource: Idaho Department of Labor

The years 2020 and 2021 were difficult, but provided an unexpected validation of Idaho’s robust economic growth. Despite significant job losses in the spring months of 2020 and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Idaho was able to return to a growth path very quickly, recovering most of the lost jobs within the year. Unlike many other states, Idaho actually added new jobs in 2021, above and beyond what was lost and regained during the pandemic, making it a year of real growth and not just recovery. Based on the strength of the state’s demographics and continued population growth, rising demand for new housing, health care and consumer services is expected to make Idaho one of the fastest-growing labor markets in the current decade, just as it was in the last., regional economist
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