Teton County is one of Idaho’s smallest counties. The largest of its three cities – Victor – has fewer than 2,000 residents. Its proximity to the Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole ski resorts makes it a bedroom community to year-round tourist destinations. As such, Teton County has experienced unique changes as the national economy continues to improve.
Economic Modeling Specialists International estimated Teton County’s 2014 population at 11,067, less than 1 percent of the state’s population. Over the past five years, however, the county’s population has grown more than 10 percent, outpacing the state’s growth rate by 4 percentage points. And as the county population increased, so has the demand for labor.
Job growth in Teton County has been much higher than job growth statewide. While Idaho’s statewide private sector growth grew jobs by 3.9 percent from the first quarters of 2013 and 2014, Teton County’s private sector added 178 new jobs, a 10.4 percent increase.
As a result, some Teton County employers have had a difficult time filling openings.
Teton County’s cost of living in relation to household income is significantly higher than the rest of the state and surrounding areas.
The average mortgage payment accounts for 33.2 percent of Teton County’s average household income, compared with less than 25 percent for the state. Although housing costs are significantly higher in neighboring Jackson Hole, Wyo., the average mortgage payment only accounts for 27.6 percent of the average household income leaving more money available for discretionary spending.
Teton County’s average cost of living for renters is also higher than the statewide average or in in Jackson Hole, WY. Average gross monthly rent in Teton County is 16.3 percent of the average household income while gross monthly rent accounts for 12.1 percent in Jackson and 14.4 percent for Idaho.
The higher cost of housing coupled with lower paying jobs has caused the county’s workforce to seek employment elsewhere, causing what feels like a worker shortage.
In 2011, the Census Bureau reported that 61.2 percent of the available workforce in Teton County were employed outside the county, with only 38.8 percent of the workforce working in the county where they live.
One in five workers from Teton County works in Wyoming, most in Jackson Hole. Driggs, Teton’s county seat, employed one in five.
Having so many people leave the area can significantly impact an employer’s ability to fill jobs, putting an upward pressure on wages.
Average private sector wages in Teton County increased 8.2 percent from the end of the first quarter of 2013 to the end of the first quarter 2014, nearly twice as much as the state’s wage increase of 4.3 percent, according to BLS and census data. From 2011 to 2013, growth in average pay for new hires in Teton also outpaced the state’s growth rate. In Teton County, average pay for new hires increased 4 percent while average new hire pay increased 2 percent statewide.
Despite the accelerated growth in wages, the average wage in Teton County still falls 20 percent short of Idaho’s statewide average wage and 40 percent below the average wage for Jackson Hole, Wyo.
As long as the benefits outweigh the costs of commuting to work, Teton County’s workforce will continue to commute, leaving jobs unfilled. But the longer jobs remain unfilled, the greater the pressure will be to increase wages, making it attractive for workers to remain in the county.
Christopher.StJeor@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 557-2500 ext 3077