Work is now underway on a major Idaho Department of Transportation improvement project on State Route 41 between Post Falls and Rathdrum. The work includes widening the highway with additional lanes in both directions as well as new traffic lights and improved railroad crossings. The $131 million project is scheduled for completion in 2022. Source: Journal of Business
Coeur d’Alene Schools suspended its mask requirement for staff and students and replaced it with a mask recommendation. Mandatory masks for students have been a continued source of consternation for Coeur d’Alene parents. Source: CDA Press
Despite the amount of unemployment created by the pandemic, the scarcity of skilled workers is growing more intense. Some industries have suffered more than others, however for people who are unemployed or pondering a transition to a skilled job with more security and higher pay – or need funding support for training – it’s a job seeker’s market.
A Divergence of Industries
Idaho and the nation were experiencing one of the longest periods of expansion in history prior to 2020. Finding skilled workers available to fill jobs had been a challenge for several years. Demographics and population growth limited the number of new people available to work. Hot industries were caught between increasing demand for services from the growing economy, and not having enough available workers to fill positions for skilled or unskilled workers. Government labor and training agencies were busy using pipeline training programs and apprenticeships to connect employers with workers.
In addition to the tragic loss of life, the economic disruption caused in the United States by Covid-19 has not been the same for each industry. The large number of job losses during 2020 were most concentrated in hospitality and consumer services – industries the pandemic impacted the most. Occupations most affected by layoffs tended to pay lower-than-average wages, resulting in the emergence of what some economists have dubbed the K-Shaped Recession. Figure 1 attempts to demonstrate this divergence of experience by lining out national wage experience into three categories or terciles.
Workers earning less than $16 per hour have endured more unemployment during the pandemic than occupations paying more $16 or more.
The Idaho Division of Veteran Services plans to proceed with construction of a 64-room home for veterans in Post Falls. The 83,000-square-foot skilled nursing facility is slated for completion in 2022. It will be Idaho’s fourth veterans home and the first in northern Idaho. Source: Journal of Business
Redevelopment of the former Atlas Mill site in Coeur d’Alene is underway, with the first phase now scheduled for the first half of 2021 to include a mix of housing. The first development phase includes 24 townhomes, 54 single family homes and 93 multifamily units along with a mix of retail and office space. Altogether, this first phase of construction will use four of the Atlas Mill site’s 13 development plats. Source: Journal of Business
Kenworth Trucks is planning to build a new facility in Post Falls to offer parts, sales, service and leasing. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Coeur d’Alene internet provider Intermax Networks has expanded into the Spokane market by acquiring Telwest Inc., a Spokane-based telecommunications provider. Source: Journal of Business
Kootenai County is on the shortlist of potential sites for a new manufacturing plant KORE Power – a battery manufacturer – is planning to build in the United States. KORE’s corporate operations are already located in Coeur d’Alene, but their manufacturing operations are currently in China. KORE plans to build a new plant in the United States which will employ roughly 3,000 people once fully operational. Source: CDA Press
A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency highlighted the successful completion of a variety of cleanup projects related to the Bunker Hill Superfund Site and laid out plans for an additional $20 million in cleanup work and construction through the end of 2020. Source: CDA Press
The Federal Communications Commission has approved $521,000 in funding for Red-Spectrum Communications, a broadband provider owned by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, to expand access in Benewah County. Source: Journal of Business
The U.S. District Court has approved Tamarack Aerospace’s proposed reorganization plan. The Sandpoint winglet manufacturer has been pursuing a reorganization to allow it to emerge from ongoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Source: Journal of Business
Percussionaire, a Sandpoint manufacturer, has received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to produce and distribute a new compact ventilator. The company has also massively ramped up production, from their typical rate of roughly 100 ventilators a month, to more than 1,000 per week. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Local food banks are facing significantly higher needs from the community in the wake of COVID-19-related job losses. The Kroc Center and the Silver Lake Mall are now hosting distribution of food as well as personal protective equipment and hygiene products. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Despite economic disruption from COVID-19, some construction has proceeded apace in Kootenai County. The Atlas Mill Site development project is moving forward, although construction has not yet begun, and commercial construction in Hayden is still occurring. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The Coeur Group, a volunteer group of professionals in Kootenai County, is providing a variety of services to affected residents through their COVID-19 task force. Services include running errands for health-compromised individuals who cannot go out in public, in addition to providing financial assistance to households struggling to meet basic expenses. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
COVID-19 is having substantial economic impacts and causing significant job losses as non-essential businesses close. In Idaho, unemployment insurance claims spiked following implementation of Idaho’s stay-home order, with nearly 110,000 total claims filed in the first five weeks following the statewide emergency order. Since then, weekly initial claims averages are roughly 18 times greater than the weekly average in 2019.
While it will take time to understand the full economic impact of COVID-19, it is not too early to detect job loss patterns. Some industries are losing more jobs than others, and while some industry losses are not surprising — like movie theaters, restaurants and salons — others may be counterintuitive. Despite the strain on some parts of the health care industry to treat COVID-19, health care workers are losing their jobs because patients are putting off routine medial care and elective surgeries. Other people are avoiding emergency rooms and urgent care clinics due to fears of contracting COVID-19.
COVID-19 slammed Idaho’s economy in March, causing the most sudden and largest job losses ever. At first, most of the job losses occurred in the tourism industry, as fear of COVID-19 reduced international travel, then domestic travel. Then conventions were canceled, schools closed, classes moved online and the dominoes kept falling. Every day, more businesses shut down or laid off its workers. On March 25, Gov. Brad Little issued a statewide 21-day stay-home order and required non-essential businesses to close.
In the six weeks since the coronavirus began affecting Idaho’s economy, 117,811 claims were filed — 13.5 percent of all Idaho residents who were employed before the crisis.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe received an Indian Housing Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, worth just over $1 million. The grant will support affordable housing development in tribal communities. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Two manufacturers in Kootenai County – Advanced Thermoplastics Composites and Continuous Composites – are participating in a 10-week intensive training program with the US Air Force. The program provides special training for small manufacturers (with under 500 employers) developing structures and systems for unmanned aircraft. Source: Journal of Business
Six businesses in downtown Coeur d’Alene have been displaced by a building fire which led to a roof collapse. The structure fire effected Emerge Art Gallery, Cole Taylor Salon, Schmidty’s Burgers, Heart City Tattoo, Farmers Insurance Agency, and 720 Haberdashery. Source: Spokesman Review
Aspen Homes & Development has begun construction on a 20-unit apartment complex in Coeur d’Alene. The units will be roughly 1,200 square feet and priced around $1,400 per month. Source: Journal of Business
Idaho’s first “Holistic Chamber of Commerce” has opened in Post Falls. The chamber will target specifically environmentally friendly companies, ideas and products, with the self-described mission of representing “holistic professionals, practitioners, businesses and resource providers.” Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Mainstream Electric, an electric, heating, cooling and plumbing company, is vacating its facility in Post Falls and moving its operations across the Washington border. The company, which employs 42 people, experienced 94 percent growth between 2015 and 2018, and has outgrown its space in northern Idaho. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Hecla Mining Company and miners of the United Steelworkers Union 5114 have agreed to a new labor contract, ending a strike lasting 1,030 days. Hecla plans to bring workers back in phases and hopes to bring the Lucky Friday mine back up to full production this year. Source: Shoshone News-Press