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.
In the summer of 2017, thousands of Idaho teens took jobs. But the percentage of teens participating in the labor force remains far below its level in earlier decades. In Idaho, just as nationwide, there’s been a long-term decline in teen participation. Does that decline matter?
Summer jobs in Idaho typically peak in July. In the past four summers, Idaho employers added an average 12,600 jobs between April and July. Only one sector usually decreases employment between April and July – education. Between 2014 and 2017, it lost an average of 8,500 jobs between those months. The sectors that typically add the most summer jobs are leisure and hospitality — restaurants, hotels and recreational facilities; federal agencies — the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management; retail — especially gas stations, convenience stores and specialty stores serving tourists; and wholesale — especially those serving the construction, forestry and agricultural industries.
Many of those jobs are taken by teens. Between the second and third quarters of 2016, the number of 14- to 18-year-olds on Idaho payrolls grew from 18,531 to 26,069, according to the Census Bureau’s Quarterly Workforce Indicators.
The Parks and Recreation Committee in Coeur d’Alene voted to ban offshore businesses in the city’s water corridor on Lake Coeur d’Alene. The decision will affect enterprises like the Hooligan Island jungle gym barge and boats that sell food. The committee sited the danger of motorized boat traffic near the beach, in water that is generally full of kayakers, paddle-boarders and swimmers in the summer. Source: Coeur D’Alene Press
Developers Philip Wirth and Rick Robinson have announced plans to create a 233-acre technology park on Highway 41 in Post Falls. The complex is being designed with technology and aerospace manufactures in mind, and the developers have specifically cited proximity to North Idaho College’s technical schools in Rathdrum as a draw to the location. Source: Coeur D’Alene Press
Nineteen Idaho counties – from Washington County in western Idaho to Teton County in eastern Idaho – are within the “path of totality” and are expected to see a large influx of visitors during this year’s total eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017.
Preparing for the total solar eclipse is taking center stage locally, regionally and nationally. Experts from Great American Eclipse.com anticipate anywhere from 93,000 to 370,000 visitors across the path of totality in Idaho, including Sun Valley, Stanley and Washington County. But the majority of visitors are expected in eastern Idaho, with NASA estimating upwards of 500,000 in eastern Idaho alone. Anyone trying to book a rental property in the region for that weekend using Airbnb will see a message that “2167 percent more people are looking for rental properties in Idaho Falls now (Aug 18-22) than on average.”
Eastern Idaho can provide roughly 8,000 units of rental sleeping spaces including hotels, motels, rental homes, lodges, campsites and RV parks. If each space is shared by an average of three people, the accommodation capacity is around 24,000 people – less than one half to one sixth of the visitor count expected to spend the night prior to eclipse day. Putting this into perspective, if 90 percent of the visitors are around only long enough to see the eclipse, using the region’s resources and infrastructure the economic benefits for the hotels, restaurants and retail outlets may be less than if they were to spend the night.
A community college can fill educational, community and social needs in a region. Spending the first two years of a four-year degree at a community college and increased educational attainment levels could add $5.2 million in annual spending to eastern Idaho’s regional economy.
In May, Bonneville County voters approved a tax measure allowing Eastern Idaho Technical College to become a community college. Continue reading →
Idaho is comprised of 44 counties – seven urban and 37 rural – as classified by the Idaho Department of Labor. Idaho fits snugly between economic urban powerhouse states Washington and Oregon and more rural neighbors Montana and Wyoming. The geographic placement of Idaho creates a unique situation.
The broad county categories of urban and rural are based mostly on population density. Though a simple classification system, it may have some significant restrictions. As time passes more people are leaving rural areas out of economic necessity such as seeking better job opportunities, education access and health care amenities. Migration out-flow data shows that rural counties like Madison and Clark have the highest rates of out-migration – up to 17 percent annually. Meanwhile, only Canyon and Ada counties have experienced an annual out-migration of only 3 to 6 percent. Though these changes mimic national trends, rural communities throughout Idaho are still active and pushing to thrive. Besides population density, there are many characteristics that separate a rural area from an urban one.
As a new resident of eastern Idaho, I am quickly learning there is much more to this traditionally rural area than I anticipated. Each region in Idaho is immensely different from one another, but eastern Idaho has vast diversity within itself. The rural, scenic, untouched beauty of Custer and Clark counties is hard for many people to find within a reasonable distance of their daily lives. In Idaho, these scenic views are just a couple of hours drive away. The Idaho Falls metropolitan area is alive, well and the forefront of economic mobility in the region. Although small compared to metro areas nationally, swift and advanced development of medical facilities, retail shopping and restaurants makes the Idaho Falls metro area an ideal place for young families or for a retirement in paradise. Along with the many economic upsides, there are also challenges for this part of the state.
Eastern Idaho is made up of nine counties; one urban and eight rural. Each county has experienced population growth within the last few years. Teton County, a rural county and close neighbor of Wyoming, has experienced a 34 percent population hike since 2010. After recently visiting the towns of Victor and Driggs, the reasons behind this rapid growth are clear. These quaint towns are infused with rich culture, diverse food and gorgeous views of the Teton Mountains with the kind of outdoor recreational activities most people dream about. For these reasons and more, there is an influx of migrants – retirees, young outdoor enthusiasts and people of all ages – swarming to these towns looking for adventure.
Community leaders and economic development professionals are typically interested in the types of businesses that should be added to their local economies. Any answer comes against the backdrop of the existing business mix that is the result of a century or more of economic evolution and market forces.
But in some cases industry growth struggles to keep up with population growth.
Madison County was Idaho’s fourth fastest growing county between 2000 and 2012 when its population increased 36 percent – almost 10,000 residents. Much of the growth was spurred by the transition of two-year Rick’s College into four-year Brigham Young University-Idaho. But neighboring Jefferson and Teton counties were also in the top-five fastest growing counties in the state.
A long-range plan called Envision Madison is under way in Madison County to ensure the community remains economically viable while maintaining its quality of life as growth continues. City planners and government leaders – and entrepreneurs looking for the next business idea – are hunting for strategies to facilitate continued natural growth. Fortunately there are a few statistical tools that can aid the process. Continue reading →
Personal income is the total of wages, business profits, investment earnings and transfer payments like Social Security and pensions, and in Idaho that total jumped 3.9 percent from 2011 to 2012.
Per capita personal income – that total divided equally among every man, woman and child – was $34,481 in 2012 in Idaho – 79 percent of the national average of $43,735. Idaho’s per capita income has been steadily declining in relation to national per capita income over the past decade, dropping from 83 percent in 2002 when it ranked 40th among the 50 states to 49th among the states in 2012.
During the same period, personal income and per capita income increased for all five northern Idaho counties. The largest increases were in Benewah and Shoshone counties, where there was a significant increase in wages and salaries. Compensation and bonuses from the mining industry was most likely the source in Shoshone County, and earnings in local government probably explains the growth in Benewah.Continue reading →
Punxsutawney Phil took some heat this year for falsely predicting the early onset of spring. All the while thousands of Idaho retail workers were prepping so potential customers can get started on projects around the house.
Home Depot has big hopes this year, announcing plans to hire 80,000 seasonal workers nationwide – 10,000 more than last year. Local media outlets reported plans for Home Depot to add 100 workers in eastern Idaho, 225 in the Boise area and 30 to 40 in Twin Falls.
Employment typically averages a little more than 30 per home center in Idaho. But that average is likely skewed by both the larger number of smaller local business and big box stores like Lowes and Home Depot in more urban areas. Employment at a lawn and garden center, however, barely hits 10 during the peak season between the second and third quarters each year. Continue reading →