December’s economic data showed that Idaho continued to progress in what has become one of the fastest economic recoveries in the country, following the economic shock of the COVID pandemic in the spring months of 2020. Idaho’s nonfarm jobs continued their recovery and are now slightly above the breakeven point for the year, with total nonfarm jobs now exceeding the totals reached in December 2019.
Idaho’s total nonfarm jobs grew by 4,900 (0.6%) to 773,700 for December 2020. Substantial gains in trade, transportation and utilities (+2,400) as well as leisure and hospitality (+1,800) drove the increases, although most of Idaho’s major sectors enjoyed gains in December.
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.
The labor force receives an infusion of workers each May after high school graduation. In south central Idaho, early estimates show nearly 2,500 students graduated this spring from public schools in the eight-county area. The final numbers will be released later this year to account for students still completing courses over the summer and those who still plan to graduate by the end of the year.
Finding data on where the graduates end up after the ceremony is more difficult to track. The ‘go on’ rate, or the percentage of high school graduates who continue on to college or community college for degrees or certificates, is an imperfect estimate. Idaho’s rate has hovered around 50 percent, up or down five percent, in recent years. A sizeable portion of the 50 percent who do not ‘go on’ need employment, roughly 1,250 regionally, based on the 2018 graduation rate estimates.
In the nine years of growth following the recession of 2008-09, Idaho’s economy has created roughly 118,000 jobs. This amounts to a total growth of 17 percent over the low point of the recession, when Idaho’s total employment fell to 686,600 in March 2008. In comparison, total employment across the United States has grown by roughly 13 percent above its recession low point. Comparing growth rates – whether between states, regions or counties – only tells part of the story, however. Idaho’s job creation performance can be better evaluated in context of the state’s demographics.
The premise of this analysis is relatively straightforward. The notion of a healthy labor market – usually termed “full employment” – infers that jobs are abundant enough to employ everyone who wants to be employed. This implies job creation should be measured against the number of potential workers.
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
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 →
This is the first of a three-part series about Idaho’s rural economy. This part examines elements impacting Idaho’s rural economy today, including population, educational attainment, industries, occupations and wages.
Part twoevaluates which dynamics influence rural Idaho’s dwindling labor force.
Part three projects how rural Idaho’s population by age group and labor force participation will look in 10 years based on the previous 10-year trends.
Labor force is a key ingredient for economic success, and labor force statistics help measure how successfully the economy is performing. The demographics of Idaho’s labor force differ in fundamental ways between its seven urban counties — Ada, Bannock, Bonneville, Canyon, Kootenai, Nez Perce and Twin Falls – and 37 rural counties. These differences spell out the challenge of economic growth and development in rural areas
The labor force in Idaho’s rural counties reflect the intensity of their aging population. The change of baby boomers from their 40s and 50s in 1995 to their 50s and 60s has resulted in a decrease in the workforce 35 to 44 years of age and a big increase in the number of people 55 and over, as the chart of workers on payrolls shows in Fig. 1. In addition, labor force participation rates for people 55 and older have risen over the past 30 years as more have enjoyed longer lifespans and better health.
In the U.S., the average retirement age rose from age 62 in 1995 to 65 in 2015.
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.
By the year 2024, the national economy is projected to add 9.8 million jobs, health care and social assistance will have the most jobs and labor force participation will drop as the last of the baby boomers retire.
These projections are part of the long-term employment and occupation projections for the nation released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics every two years. Projections attempt to answer the question, “What will the economy look like a decade from now, if it were to be running at full capacity?” This information is provided for long-term planning for decision makers and for those planning their career options. Continue reading →
Small businesses are an essential component of the “American Dream” and are often viewed as the backbone of the national economy. Defined as establishments with fewer than 20 employees, Idaho’s small businesses make up the majority of the state’s private employers and support a significant number of jobs statewide. While the success of smaller employers is often cyclical with the business cycle, small businesses have played a significant role in the current economic expansion and will continue to play a critical role in driving the state’s economy forward.