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.
Idaho’s economic recovery through February 2015 generated 13,000 more jobs than were lost – 27 percent more, while payrolls increased 20 percent – $698 million in goods production and $1.7 billion in services.
Idaho’s recovery from the recession took hold most strongly in the Boise metropolitan area while it took two more years for the four other metro areas to see marked job growth in 2013.
Even rural communities posted job growth early on, but once the momentum shifted to the urban parts of the state in 2013, rural job growth slowed after a summer uptick in 2014.
Using average wages for 2010, Idaho’s job loss in the recession totaled $1.5 billion from goods production and $424 million from services.
Idaho’s post-recession job growth gained steam during the past two years, with the recovery concentrated in the state’s 11 metropolitan counties.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the state lost over 50,000 jobs from 2007 to 2010, two-thirds from the traditionally better-paying goods production sector. Idaho’s 33 rural counties – those not part of a federally designated metropolitan statistical area – lost a slightly higher proportion of jobs than urban counties, but those same rural counties hung on to many more manufacturing jobs than metro areas.