Idaho’s telephone call center jobs have helped urban areas and their surrounding towns train, sometimes re-train and gainfully employ their local workforce.
Telephone call centers have developed a concentration in Idaho, employ 9,300 workers and inhabit every region in Idaho except for one, north-central Idaho near Lewiston. Despite the lower-than-average wages, these centers also provide entry-level employment that benefits local communities and surrounding areas.
Telephone call centers tend to locate in Idaho’s urban areas because of the need for larger pools of workers and accessible commercial air service.
Based on the location-quotient, Idaho ranks second behind Utah among its regional neighbors for the concentration of call centers. The comparative concentration of workers is commonly referred to as the location quotient. Anything higher than ‘1’ indicates a greater concentration of jobs in that industry than the nation’s. Idaho’s LQ is 3.02 while Utah is 3.38. Surrounding states such as Montana, Wyoming and Nevada either have a different concentration of industries, or their job base as a whole is too large for call centers to achieve a high level of concentration. Washington and Oregon have a large industry base and are too diverse to report such concentrations.
The recession and Idaho’s continuing recovery have underscored a significant structural shift in the economy of the five-county Boise metropolitan area. Jobs at call centers and in computer chip manufacturing have moved in opposite directions.
Behind health care which has been steadily growing as the state population ages, call centers posted the second largest job gain of all subsectors from 2007 through 2013, while chip production posted the largest decline.
Employment and wages in each industry beginning in 1991 are tracked through two different recessions, using shift-share analysis from 2001 to 2013 to help explain the divergent employment trends.
Employment in semiconductor manufacturing grew steadily through the dot-com boom in the 1990s, adding 8,073 jobs between 1991 and 2001, but this trend reversed following the 2001 recession. Despite Idaho being one of the few states to escape that recession with no overall job losses, the semiconductor industry lost 2,387 jobs between 2001 and 2003 before experiencing a recovery that generated 827 jobs through 2006. The second recession, which began in December 2007, claimed 4,470 jobs between 2007 and 2010 – half the gains of the 1990s. Since then, the 2010 the recovery has been slow – with an increase of 855 jobs. Even with a modest gain, the industry lost more jobs from 2007 through 2013 than any other sector in the metro area, which includes Ada, Boise, Canyon, Gem and Owyhee counties.