As with the rest of the nation, accurately estimating the size of the gig economy in Idaho remains a challenge. While measures such as part-time employment and self-employment show unimpressive growth trends, other indicators like the growth of staffing agencies and nonemployer establishments tell a different and perhaps more believable story – the gig economy in Idaho is alive and growing.
What is a gig?
The word “gig” spontaneously invokes images of bar bands, freelance writers, Uber drivers and TaskRabbit workers. A common thread with these workers is that work is on-demand and oftentimes uncertain. The formal definition of a gig, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is “a single project or task for which a worker is hired, often through a digital marketplace, to work on demand.”
Not only can gigs vary in frequency, duration and skill level, the gig worker can have many faces as well. One gig worker could be self-employed with one or multiple gigs forming the bulk of his/her income; another could be a part-time worker using gigs to supplement traditional employment. These variances are part of the difficulties faced in estimating the size of the gig economy and workforce.
Proxy datasets used to represent the gig economy capitalize on some of the typical elements of gig work namely that gig workers are often part-time, contingent workers and are self-employed. These datasets are imperfect indicators that offer only a glimpse of this gig economy. The following are some of these indicators.
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 agricultural sector in Idaho plays a major role in the state economy, contributing $3 billion – about 5 percent of the total state gross domestic product.
Idaho is ranked first in the nation in the production of potatoes and barley – the state production accounts for more than 30 percent of the national production – and ranks fourth in the nation for milk and milk cow production. Farm productivity continues to advance and exports are increasing, yet farm income has fallen over the past several years. In the face of declining profit margins, low agriculture commodity prices and a farm labor supply shortage, the farmworker demographic is undergoing a change.
Agricultural Labor Worker Types
Source: Idaho Department of Labor
Agricultural labor estimates show a stable and consistent pattern of seasonal farm employment with peaks around October each year. In 2016, average annual employment was 51,240 with a peak employment of 61,100 in October 2016. Continue reading
Idaho’s new business establishments have added more than 10,000 private sector jobs per year over the past two decades, accounting for between 20 to 30 percent of private sector gross job gains and nearly all net private sector job growth. Since the end of the last recession, the share of private sector new businesses in Idaho’s economy has risen faster than surrounding states and the nation as a whole, growing from 7 percent of all establishments in 2010 to more than 11 percent in 2016. Job creation by these private startup businesses, however, remains in decline.
Idaho startup rates and failure rates are higher than national averages
In Idaho, as with the rest of the nation, the rise in the number of businesses entering the economy was significantly stymied by the most recent recession that started in December 2007. At the end of the first quarter of 2010, the number of establishment entries in Idaho had sunk to less than 3,000 from its prerecession peak of 5,073. Since then, the downward trend reversed and establishment entries have returned to pre-recession levels.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistic – Business Employment Dynamics. Startups are establishments less than a year old and do not include non-employer establishments
Idaho’s “micro” counties, rural counties that have no town with a population greater than 5,000 within their borders, have experienced significant differences in economic growth and development from the state’s urban counties as well as other, larger rural counties.
Rural issues have received significant attention in Idaho. In addition to research conducted within the Idaho Department of Labor, both the Governor’s Office and the Department of Commerce have discussed specific initiatives aimed at fostering economic growth in rural Idaho.
Department of Labor analysts define “rural” as all counties that do not contain an urban center, as noted in previous articles. This definition doesn’t recognize some of the differences in non-urban counties by assuming any county without an urban center is “rural.” Further narrowing the definition to “micro” counties for the purposes of this analysis avoids this issue by identifying Idaho’s smallest communities and defining their counties as rural.
Though last spring’s labor market for college graduates was hot, the Class of 2017 will likely find the best job market in 10 years when they graduate this spring. Surveys suggest that employers are ramping up their recruitment efforts for this year. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Dec. 18 that college graduates are entering the strongest job market the country has seen in nearly a decade. New grads also are expected to find more job openings here in Idaho. Placement offices at Idaho universities report more employers are showing interest in their students graduating this spring.
Michigan State University’s Recruiting Trends, released in September, projected hiring should be very strong for the Class of 2017. Company growth and employee turnover are expected to increase hiring of newly minted bachelor’s degree holders by 19 percent, according to 4,350 employers of all sizes across industries and in all states. Sectors experiencing heavy growth include hospitality and food services; arts and entertainment; finance; real estate and leasing; transportation; and retail and wholesale trade.
At Idaho State University, several Idahoans are able to prepare for new medical careers, fill high-demand jobs and stay in Idaho with the support of the Idaho Department of Labor.
The backbone of the endeavor is a federally funded program, designed to assist eligible individuals find and qualify for meaningful employment. This in turn helps employers find skilled workers they need for success.
Matthew Ries is one of the students attending ISU with the support of the Idaho Department of Labor.
The program is especially important to people who have lost jobs due to layoffs or business closures, or have been unemployed for a lengthy amount of time and have exhausted their unemployment benefits. It also helps adults who need assistance to find work that allows them to be self-sufficient.
For Tracy Calvert of Nampa, the program was ideal. He found himself without a job after being laid off from a 14-year career. When he heard about the program through the Department of Labor, he worked with consultant Maribel Guzman and discovered he qualified for one of the nursing program at ISU’s Meridian campus.
“This provided financial support that I wouldn’t have had without putting my family and our financial health at risk,” Calvert said. He is in the accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing program.
It seems there is almost a daily story on the effect robots and automation will have on the current labor force. Autonomous, self-driving cars and trucks, robot mops and automated pizza delivery vans are at the horizon’s edge of a future economy that promises to redefine the interplay between humans and machines in the production of work.
Estimates indicate 47 percent of current employment in the United States has the potential to be automated in the next 10 to 20 years based on current technology trends. However, potential risk is not the same thing as inevitable replacement, and research shows that while some jobs will likely be fully automated, most will be redefined as automated systems and robots are introduced into the economy. Continue reading
In March, Idaho had the distinction of being the leader nationally in the percentage growth of non farm jobs over the previous year. As a share of its economy, Idaho added the most jobs of any state — 3.6 percent over the past year, followed by Oregon and Utah, both at 3.3 percent, and Tennessee and Washington each at 3.2 percent.
The unemployment rate is one of the most widely referenced indicators of economic health. Separations – people leaving jobs – can have a large impact on the rate. Some may view this as a negative indicator of economic strength – more separations mean a weaker job market – but that is not always the case as it depends on why people leave their jobs. Recently, data suggests separations are increasing and approaching the same levels during the recession, but this is actually a good thing.