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Rural Idaho Today: An Overview of Components Impacting its Economy

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 two evaluates 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.

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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

Older Population

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.

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