Tag Archives: jobs

Idaho’s Construction Industry Slowly Recovering

At the peak of the housing boom in 2007, construction jobs hit 53,250 statewide with an annual payroll just under $2 billion. In 2014, the sector had barely 35,000 jobs that paid $1.37 billion.

Construction has historically been strongest in southwestern Idaho – the state’s population center. Ada and Canyon counties account for almost 40 percent of the state’s population. The remaining eight counties add another 6 percent to bring total population of the region to over 737,000. From 2013 to 2014, the number of construction jobs increased just over 1,100 in the region, where almost half the state’s construction jobs are, while northern Idaho’s five counties – anchored by Kootenai County – posted the second largest increase at nearly 450.

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Eastern Idaho Labor Market Improving

The education people receive and the skills they attain greatly influence their economic well-being, but successfully navigating the labor market is no simple task, and understanding the history of eastern Idaho’s labor market, its current growth and the specific industries that are growing can make it easier.

Recent History

After several years of slow growth, the U.S. labor market appears to be picking up. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 295,000 increase in February’s nonfarm payroll employment, marking the 12th straight month payrolls grew by more than 200,000 – the first time since a 19-month run in 1993 to 1995. Continue reading

Worker Demand in South Central Idaho Increases in Late Summer, Fall

The biggest demand for workers in south central Idaho is in the second half of the year when weather is more certain. Two-thirds of all part-time and full-time job listings with the Idaho Department of Labor are placed from July to December – a favorable time of year encompassing crop harvests that underpin the regional economy as well as being conducive to completing construction projects. Retail picks up with back-to-school and the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

The department’s job listings for south central Idaho have been increasing since the end of the recession as demand picked up from existing businesses that froze payrolls during the downturn and from new and expanding companies.

SC historic job listings

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Job Opportunities Grow in Recovering Trucking Industry

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.

Trucking 1

(Click on the tables to increase the size)

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Growing Occupations Offer Opportunities to New Idaho Grads

Thousands of collegians have received their degrees and are starting – or hoping to start –  careers for which they have spent four or more years studying. In the past year 1,248 students graduated from Idaho State University, many entering an economy showing signs of growth.

The tight job market graduates experienced during the past several years has loosened up.

ISU Grads pie chart_Dan

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Some Idaho Industries More Apt to Hire Older Workers

The aging workforce will have an overarching effect on the economy in the years to come, but older workers are feeling the impact now. With the effects of the last recession still lingering, knowing which industries are more apt to hire older workers is critical to today’s job seekers.

table 1

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Idaho Welder Wages Lag U.S., Neighboring States

A lack of welders in Idaho could have more to do with what they are being paid in surrounding states according to a cross-state comparison of wages.

Welding employment varies by state and over time. Nationally, the number of welders has been fairly stable since 1998 with the exception of 2008 when the previous expansion swelled payrolls almost 11 percent before they declined back to 352,000 in 2013.

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Retail Sales Move From Big Ticket Items to Gasoline, Online Sales

Idaho was not immune from the national recession that took a bite out of retail sales. While retail has been recovering since 2010, sales and employment remain below prerecession levels despite population growth, and the outlook remains mixed.

Retail fell and now is rising: Retail activity, based on sales subject to Idaho sales tax and adjusted to 2013 dollars, fell 11.1 percent from $23.8 billion in 2007 to $18 billion in 2010. Since then sales have been increasing, but at $21.2 billion in 2013, remained below the prerecession peak.

Retail chart 1

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Retirements Open Job Opportunities in Idaho’s Wood Products Industry

A guiding principle of the wood and paper products industry is to reforest after harvesting – planting new trees for future generations. Now, as baby boomers retire, northern Idaho wood products manufacturers are applying that same principle to their workforce.

There are 240 wood products and paper manufacturing businesses employing 6,800 people in 40 of Idaho’s 44 counties. Using the statewide multiplier of 2.79 for all wood products and paper manufacturing subsectors, combined they create another 12,136 jobs in other sectors across the state. To further signify the industries’ role in Idaho’s overall economy, the annual average wage is $42,620 – 18 percent higher than the average wage for all industries.

Over half of Idaho’s wood and paper products jobs are in the 10 northern counties, and most of the rest – 36 percent – are in southwestern Idaho. Nearly one in three manufacturing jobs in Idaho’s 10 northern counties is in wood and paper products, making these regions highly dependent on the industry and its rolling multiplier effect.

Wood products table 1

Nonetheless, the industry has identified a void in its aging workforce.

Nearly half the workers are 45 or older, leaving mill managers mulling future workforce needs. One in four northern Idaho mill workers is set to retire in the next 10 years – 23.5 percent are 55 and older compared to 20.5 percent statewide. Another 31 percent are between ages 45 and 54 in the north compared to 26 percent statewide.

Wood products table 2

Log scalers and saw filers were becoming obsolete, and increased mechanization in the mills generated a need for industrial control technicians – electricians trained on program logic controllers, or PLCs. With that, a partnership was formed between North Idaho College, the Idaho Department of Labor and the three largest wood product manufacturers in northern Idaho – Idaho Forest Group, Potlatch and Stimson.

To meet industry needs – especially as the knowledge, skills and expertise of the baby boomers disappears with their retirements – the state’s Workforce Development Council approved a new Industry Sector Grant program. It uses Workforce Development Training Funds to assist Idaho employers in creating new jobs or retaining existing ones. The fund is financed with a 3 percent offset of employer unemployment insurance taxes. It reimburses employers for training costs for jobs that pay at least $12 per hour and include employer-assisted medical benefits.

As a result of collaborative efforts and the state’s Industry Sector Grant program, a Wood Products Manufacturing Center of Excellence was created at the college to focus on training logic controller technicians, or PLC electricians, saw filers and log scalers as part of the industry’s succession plan.

Wood products table 3

The wood products consortium received $374,000 to run training programs for these occupations over the next two years – $281,000 from the training fund and the rest in a match from the businesses. The center at the college’s Workforce Training Center has been operating since Jan. 1.

Other regions across the state could benefit from this pilot program as well. With 36 percent of the wood products and paper industry in southwestern Idaho, similar partnerships could apply a similar foundation to fill their employer needs.

The number of job openings in wood products and paper manufacturing is at 2007 levels. There were 712 job openings statewide in 2012 – 14 percent more than in 2007. In 2013, job openings slowed but still remained around 2007 levels with 600 jobs posted through the Idaho Department of Labor. Electricians, kiln operators, truck mechanics and skilled saw filers were among some of the good-paying jobs the industry needed to fill.

The output of Idaho’s wood products sector is likely to grow considerably in the next 10 years, and the need to replace an aging workforce is a growing concern. As the housing market continues to recover and housing starts normalize, mills across the state have leapt back into full production. Growing population and increased prosperities in China and other Asian countries increased those countries’ imports of Idaho wood products, which should continue. Declining competition from imported western Canadian wood products due to the risk of disease and pests is also expected to reduce timber harvests in British Columbia and Alberta. The U.S. Forest Service is willing to increase timber harvests on public lands, and the Clearwater Basin Collaborative and the Panhandle Forest Collaborative are expected to lead to more federal timber sales.

A bright future looms in the wood products industry. The center will train the next generation of workers in an industry that has always been the backbone of northern Idaho’s economy.

Alivia.Metts@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 457-8789 ext. 348


Bannock County’s Economic Recovery Slows

Bannock County is trying to attract new businesses and help existing companies grow, but in order to regain prerecession employment levels, food and high-tech manufacturing payrolls need to expand.

The most recent unemployment statistics for Bannock County suggest the economic tide is turning in the Pocatello area. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in February was 5.2 percent, a tenth of a point below the statewide rate.

Still employment in Bannock County could be better. Through the recession and since, the total number of workers on the job decreased nearly 7 percent from 40,100 in 2007 to 37,400 in 2013.

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