The level of construction activity is one of many indicators that signal the health of an economy. Currently, Idaho’s scenery is dotted with construction projects ranging from heavy construction infrastructure ventures to commercial buildings to single- and multi-family homes and residential housing projects.
This was not the case after the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009) squelched Idaho’s strong housing industry, resulting in a loss of almost 23,000 jobs based on quarterly employer reports to the Idaho Department of Labor. Construction was one of the hardest hit industries during that time and continues to rebuild in all six Idaho regions.
Idaho’s construction industry has grown by 127 percent from 1991-2018. It has experienced more periods of growth than downturns in jobs since 1991, as shown in Chart 1.
Idaho’s construction industry was one of the hardest hit during the Great Recession. At the start of the recession in 2007, there were 650 construction industry employers in southeastern Idaho with an average of at least one employee. By 2013, more than half had no employment records, meaning most likely the employer went out of business or moved out of the region. The number of start-up construction companies in southeastern Idaho also declined in the same period.
Southeastern Idaho Construction Industry Post-Recession
Since the trough of 2013, southeastern Idaho construction employment has been in recovery and the number of construction start-ups have been on the rise, but the industry has a long way to go. Between 2013 and 2017, construction employment grew by 17 percent – a net growth of 460 jobs. The 3,167 construction jobs in 2017, however still is 20 percent – or nearly 800 jobs – below the employment levels of the industry’s peak in 2007.
The construction industry suffered disproportionate job losses during the course of the Great Recession as property values plummeted and the over-heated housing market contracted. An oversupply of housing in many parts of the country caused construction to shrink for several quarters even after other industries had begun to grow again. During the post-recession growth period, however, Idaho’s construction industry has outperformed the rest of the country, fueled by the state’s high rate of population growth and the associated demand for housing and commercial space.
Beginning in late 2007, construction in Idaho began to shed jobs at an alarming rate. The industry contracted by almost 24,000 jobs between October 2007 and March 2009 – about 42 percent of the industry’s total pre-recession employment. While construction suffered across the country, Idaho’s sufferings were particularly acute; the state’s 42 percent industry contraction dwarfed the 29 percent loss experienced nationwide. Continue reading
Only a few weeks into 2017 and it is already looking like big change for eastern Idaho. As 2016 came to a close a hefty number of building plans were solidified and in 2017 they will come to life. As the construction industry and housing markets are still recovering from the 2008 recession, eastern Idaho is seeing an unfamiliar jump in infrastructure expected in the next few years. While home building permit approvals are sky rocketing around the region, regional expansion is not stopping at residential building. Public and private entities alike are bringing big changes to the area. More than $22 million in commercial building permits were approved for eastern Idaho in 2016. Continue reading
At the peak of the housing boom in 2007, construction jobs hit 53,250 statewide with an annual payroll just under $2 billion. In 2014, the sector had barely 35,000 jobs that paid $1.37 billion.
Construction has historically been strongest in southwestern Idaho – the state’s population center. Ada and Canyon counties account for almost 40 percent of the state’s population. The remaining eight counties add another 6 percent to bring total population of the region to over 737,000. From 2013 to 2014, the number of construction jobs increased just over 1,100 in the region, where almost half the state’s construction jobs are, while northern Idaho’s five counties – anchored by Kootenai County – posted the second largest increase at nearly 450.
Economic conditions in Idaho were strong through September, a trend that began in early 2010.
Commercial Vacancy Rates
Commercial real estate is a good indicator of whether employers are expanding or businesses are starting up or contracting or shutting down.
According to Reis Inc., a commercial real estate research firm, vacancy rates in the Boise metro area – the only area in Idaho with data – remained high through 2013. The retail market hovered around 18 percent compared with 9.5 percent throughout the country’s western region and 11 percent nationwide. Office vacancies were slightly lower, lingering around 17.5 percent to essentially mirror the 17.7 percent regionally and 17.1 percent nationally. Boise’s downtown core has a significantly lower vacancy rate at 10.6 percent than the outlying areas with 22.5 percent.
Idaho’s economy has generated about 16,000 nonfarm jobs in 2013. Health care, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality and construction were the most expansive sectors, accounting for 64 percent of the growth. The majority of jobs in every case were in southwestern Idaho, the state’s population center.
The biggest share was in manufacturing, which generated 16.5 percent of the new jobs, with durable manufacturing carrying the load. Since wages are typically higher in durable manufacturing than nondurable, those new jobs accounted for two-thirds of the $300 million in new wages that sector provided. The opening of the Chobani Greek yogurt plant in Twin Falls boosted nondurable manufacturing.
While it seems the national housing market is moving again, there’s little evidence of that in eastern Idaho.
While the U.S. Census Bureau reports national construction spending rose 9.3 percent in January from a year earlier, marketing statistics from the Snake River Multiple Listing Service show no improvement in the combined housing market of Bonneville, Jefferson, Madison and Fremont counties. Continue reading