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.
Idaho’s recovery from the recession has been among the strongest of any U.S. state. Over the past five years, Idaho has consistently ranked near or at the top in the rate of growth for employment. Idaho, significantly, does not suffer from imbalanced or lopsided growth, where one or two industries are growing while the rest of the economy struggles. Idaho has enjoyed job growth across a wide variety of sectors. The balance of this job growth can be measured using a variant called the Diffusion Index.
When evaluating job growth, it is preferable to see growth in all sectors of the economy. Some states, like North Dakota for example, experienced rapid job growth associated with a boom in oil drilling. While the oil industry is a strong employer that brings many economic benefits, it is a more stable scenario to have a diversified economy.
Food processing is one of the strongest industry clusters in south central Idaho, primarily focused in Jerome, Twin Falls, Cassia and Minidoka counties.
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Agriculture is driving this sector through the added value that the availability of commodities has fostered. In a state where livestock outnumber people by more than a million, animal production is the largest component, dominated by the dairy industry.
Until recently, the high-tech industry cluster was relatively amorphous. Analysts chose industries that best suited the immediate objective – a “know it when you see it” approach, but that made it difficult to compare one analysis to any other. So in 2013 the Workforce Information Council, a federal-state organization set up under federal law, created a new, statistically robust high-tech taxonomy or classification procedure.
The taxonomy is based on the concentration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics occupations within an industry. To qualify as high-tech, an industry must have 2.5 times the national average of so-called STEM occupations. The current national average is roughly 5 percent, meaning to qualify as high-tech, an industry must have at least 15 percent of all employment classified as STEM occupations.
The most recent industry assessment under the taxonomy, released in 2014, includes 31 industries ranging from computer systems design and related services, where STEM concentration was about 67 percent nationally, to resin, synthetic rubber and artificial synthetic fibers and filaments manufacturing, where the STEM concentration was roughly 16 percent nationwide.
Industry classification reflects the business activity of a person’s employer or company. Occupational classification reflects the type of job or work that the person does, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Long-term occupational projections for Idaho will appear in another article in the future.
Employment by Major Industry Sector
Idaho jobs are projected to increase 109,000 to 781,000 from 2012 to 2022, according to long-term projections from the Idaho Department of Labor. This 16 percent increase over 10 years is more than double the growth Idaho experienced in the previous decade.
From 2002 to 2012, goods-production industries, excluding agriculture, shed more than 14,000 jobs to fall from 16 percent of the economy to just over 13 percent. Jobs in the service sector filled the gap, increasing from 70 percent to 75 percent of all jobs. Through 2022 goods production should hold its own and increase its share of total jobs fractionally, gaining nearly 18,000 jobs over the decade to exceed 106,000 by 2022. Construction and manufacturing have returned to positive annual growth, but mining is expected to add just over 100 jobs in stark contrast to the more than 900 jobs added during the previous 10 years.
Trucking is one of several industries that can be a fairly accurate economic barometer. During 2007 as the economy slid into recession, the industry experienced declines in the amount of freight being shipped – a clear and early indication that the nation’s economy was slowing down.
The trucking industry is still attempting to recover from the job losses suffered after 2007 as are other industries. Since then, the number of heavy and tractor-trailer drivers has decreased from nearly 1.7 million to just below 1.6 million in 2013 – a 5.9 percent decline.
(Click on the tables to increase the size)