Author Archives: Idaho Department of Labor

About Idaho Department of Labor

Our goal is to be Idaho’s first choice for employment services. We connect job seekers with Idaho employers, deliver employment services to Idaho businesses and support people during career and life transitions.

September Economic Activity Around Idaho

Information provided in this article has been gathered from various sources throughout the state, including local newspapers and other media.

Northern Idaho
North Central Idaho
Southwestern Idaho
South Central Idaho
Southeastern & Eastern Idaho


  • For the first time since 1996, cheese is Idaho’s largest export. Milk products have always been a major export with whey and dry milk powder leaders. Almost three-quarters of Idaho’s dairy production is in southern Idaho, where several large milk product plants including Chobani and Glanbia are located. Idaho was the fourth-largest dairy producing state in the nation last year after New York, California and Wisconsin. This year, it’s on track to take New York’s spot at No. 3.
  • The value of all goods and services sold in Idaho rose more than twice as fast as the national average last year, but per capita output still ranked among America’s lowest, new federal data show. Idaho’s inflation-adjusted gross state product increased 4.1 percent in 2013, the fifth-highest rate of growth, lagging only North Dakota, Wyoming, West Virginia and Oklahoma, according to a U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The state ranked 50th in the per capita value of real gross state product at $36,000. Growth slowed in the second half of 2013. Fourth-quarter output occurred at a rate of nearly $58 billion a year in 2009 dollars., regional economist
(208) 332-3570 ext. 3455

NORTHERN IDAHO – Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and  Shoshone counties

Regional Developments

  • The Avista Foundation has awarded a $10,000 grant to St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho to help purchase a building from the city of Coeur d’Alene as a one-stop location for 24 different human care services in collaboration with 19 different agencies.
  • Avista has filed its 2014 Natural Gas Integrated Resource Plan with state regulators in Washington, Idaho and Oregon. The plan forecasts sufficient natural gas resources well into the future, indicating access to natural gas supply through the acquisition of additional pipeline resources will not be needed until 2034 or later. The plan is submitted to the public utility commissions every two years as part of Avista’s regulatory commitment.

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Idaho’s Public Colleges Face Challenges – Part Two

Part two of a two-part article.

Part one of this article covered the impact of economic pressures on the changing enrollments at colleges and how to increase the number of high school graduates who will go on to postsecondary education.

Not Ready for College

American high schools are graduating many students who are not prepared for college and consequently, much less likely to complete college than their better-prepared peers or take longer when they do graduate. According to the College Board, which writes and administers the SAT examination used by colleges to access candidates’ readiness for college, about a quarter of Idaho’s high school juniors who took the exam in April 2013 were prepared for college based on their scores in critical reading, mathematics and writing. The ACT, another exam commonly required for college entrance, showed only 26 percent of Idaho students hit benchmarks in all four categories—English, reading, mathematics and science.

Unprepared students are enrolled in remediation courses – English or mathematics courses below college level. About 57.4 percent of those entering a two-year college and 19.9 percent of those entering a four-year college in Idaho enroll in remediation courses, according to Complete College America. About two-thirds of students complete the required remedial work, and those who do usually take longer to graduate and therefore take on more student debt. Only 18 percent of full-time students requiring remediation on enrolling in Idaho’s two-year colleges in fall 2005 had earned an associate degree three years later, according to Complete College America. Of those requiring remediation on enrolling in Idaho’s four-year colleges, 20.9 percent had earned a bachelor’s degree within six years.

Dual Credits Increase Chances of Completing College

While many Idaho high school graduates are not prepared for college, others are already earning college credit through dual credit courses. These courses spring from agreements between high schools and colleges and allow high school juniors and seniors to enroll in college courses that simultaneously award college and high school credit.

Dual credit courses accelerate the time it takes students to complete postsecondary degrees or certificates and reduces the financial burden of college. They also give students the confidence that they are ready to transition to college. In 2007 about 5,000 Idaho students were enrolled in dual credit courses. Last year, that number climbed to more than 11,000 students.

Those numbers are likely to soar because the Idaho Legislature last spring voted to decrease the student cost for duel credit courses. The Fast Forward program will cover up to 75 percent of the cost for students to take dual credit classes, college-bearing examinations or professional technical exams. The state will cover up to $200 for a high school junior and $400 for a senior each year. On average, three-credit courses cost $196 so the state will cover $146, leaving the student to pay only $40.

How Long Does a Two-Year School Take?

Although schools are identified as two year and four year, the reality is only 36 percent of students at public colleges graduate in that time, and the longer their schooling takes, the less likely students are to graduate at all. When they do graduate, they have paid more tuition, incurred more debt and lost opportunities to earn money. One reason students are taking longer to graduate is the amount of time they have to spend on remedial classes. Many students are working and going to school part time.

In addition, many full-time students are not taking the 15 credits per semester necessary for graduating on time. Also, overcrowded classes  make it impossible for students to fulfill degree requirements in a timely manner. Many students are earning more credits than they need to graduate, which increases how long they are in school. Some of the excess credits occur because students change their minds about their majors while others are earned because students do not understand what courses they need to graduate. Full-time students in Idaho take 5.4 years on average to earn a bachelor’s degree while part-time students take 6.6 years, according to Complete College America. Full-time students in Idaho take five years on average to earn an associate degree, and part-time students take 5.8 years.

At Idaho’s four-year public schools, 37.8 percent of the students graduated within six years. Of every 100 students, 18.7 completed their degrees at Idaho public colleges compared to 20.5 nationally, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Grad rates for 4 year schools

At Idaho’s two-year public schools, 20.2 percent of the students graduated within three years, and of every 100 students 17.7 completed their courses compared to 14.2 completions nationally in 2010, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Grad rates for 2 year schools

Retention: Preventing Dropouts

To reach enrollment goals, universities must not only increase the number of students who enter but also keep them in school.

Only half of the Americans who enroll in college end up with a bachelor’s degree. Among developed countries, only Italy has a higher dropout rate.

Dropping out of college creates uncertainty about the future, where students are likely to earn considerably less than if they had completed school. It means that they are not likely to get much return on the time and money they invested in attending school, and it often leaves a trail of debt. Dropouts are more than four times as likely as graduates to default on their student loans. For the state and federal governments, which appropriate money for higher education, it also means a loss. A 2010 study by American Institutes for Research estimated states appropriated almost $6.2 billion for four-year colleges and universities between 2003 and 2008 to help pay for the education of students who did not return for their sophomore years while the federal government spent $1.5 billion and states $1.4 billion on grants for those students.

Idaho ranks 46th among the 50 states for retaining students, according to the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. To reduce Idaho’s college dropout problem, the state Board of Education worked with Complete College America and approved a Complete College Idaho plan in June 2012.

The annual U.S. News & World Report rankings of colleges include estimates of retention rates. The most recent statistics are the average proportion of freshmen who began college between fall of 2008 and fall 2011 and returned to school the following fall. The retention rates for Idaho’s four-year public colleges were 70 percent at Boise State University, 61 percent at Idaho State University, 51 percent at Lewis-Clark State College and 79 percent at the University of Idaho. The state Board of Education’s 2012 Higher Education Fact Book said, “Institutions that serve larger populations of adult continuing education students (which include a higher percentage of part-time or commuter students with dependents) are BSU, LCSC and ISU. In contrast, UI is primarily a residential campus with a higher population of traditional students (i.e., first-time, full-time freshmen). These differences must be taken into account when comparing retention and graduation rates across institutions.”

Idaho’s colleges are working to increase retention by improving the introduction to college life, providing more counseling and implementing other strategies.

Non-traditional students — unemployed workers, alternative high school students, young single parents and dropouts — face work schedule conflicts, family obligations and geographic and financial barriers and are very likely to drop out. A pilot project to increase retention of non-traditional students, funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, used nationally proven best practices to keep them in school. During the three-year pilot that ended last year, the five participating schools – the College of Southern Idaho, Eastern Idaho Technical College, Idaho State University’s College of Technology, Lewis-Clark State College and North Idaho College – delivered enhanced advising, mentoring and remediation techniques, monitored student progress, and created support groups for almost 500 non-traditional students. After the pilot project, participants had higher grade point averages compared with the general Idaho freshman population. Almost 70 percent of students were retained in programs after the first year — a 500 percent increase over the national average., regional economist
(208) 799-5000, ext. 3984



Idaho’s Public Colleges Face Challenges – Part One

Part one of a two-part article.

To compete with other states and globally, Idaho’s economy needs a skilled workforce. Postsecondary education is the key to developing those skills to innovate and thrive. Education also helps raise the quality of life of workers who receive schooling as well as for their families. Recognizing rising skill levels for many jobs and the importance of higher education in making the Idaho economy competitive, the Idaho State Board of Education set an ambitious goal for 60 percent of Idahoans 25 to 34 years old to have a degree or certificate by 2020.

To achieve this goal, Idaho’s public schools must increase student enrollment and retention. But they will be facing some headwinds. Throughout the United States colleges are under economic pressure, and a growing number of private schools are likely to face bankruptcy as pressure mounts as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Student Drought Hits Smaller Universities,” dated July 25, 2014.

Global competition is intensifying. The United States was the world leader in educational attainment until the 1990s. In recent years, many countries have been producing degree-holders at a higher rate. In 2011, 42 percent of Americans ages 25 to 34 had associate, bachelor’s or advanced degrees, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. lagged South Korea’s 63 percent, Japan’s 58 percent, Canada’s 56 percent, Ireland’s 48 percent, Britain’s 48 percent, Norway’s 47 percent, Luxembourg’s 46 percent, New Zealand’s 45 percent, Israel’s 44 percent and Austria’s 43 percent. In the United States, the public-private balance of expenditure on postsecondary education is nearly the reverse of the average across other OECD countries. In the U.S., public sources provide 36 percent of spending on higher education while the other nations average 68 percent.

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Idaho Projects Workforce Gap in Energy Industry

Jobs in the utilities sector will grow a percentage point faster through 2022 than jobs overall in Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Labor’s long-term industry projections estimate job growth in utilities will hit 17.3 percent between 2012 and 2022 compared with 16.2 percent for all jobs in the state.

Chart 1

While this growth in the utilities industry is good news, especially considering that the Idaho Department of Labor estimates the annual average wage in this sector at $66,697, the need for new workers raises the question of whether the state will have enough workers with the right skills to meet the demand.

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Do Tipped Employees Need to be Paid Minimum Wage?

All Idaho workers must receive an hourly minimum wage for time worked, but things get a little trickier with tipped employees.

firstjobTo be considered a tipped employee, one must regularly receive more than $30 per month in tips.

While tipped employees don’t have to be paid minimum wage directly from their employer, the employee’s combined hourly wage plus tips must equal the minimum wage of the state where they are employed. The hourly wage of a tipped employee must also meet at least the federal minimum cash wage of $2.13 per hour.

Idaho state law requires employers to pay tipped employees above the federal tipped minimum wage. Idaho, with a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, requires employers to pay tipped employees a minimum cash wage of $3.35 per hour.

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Recent College Grads Face Challenges in Recession Aftermath

New college graduates faced a tough job market during the recession, but since 2010 the market has improved slightly every year. Early indications suggest that 2014 saw more significant improvements in Idaho and the nation.

Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the unemployment rate for 20- to 29-year-olds with bachelor’s degrees but nothing higher peaked in 2009 at 17.6 percent, nearly double the 9 percent in 2007. The rate declined to 14.9 percent in 2010, dropped to 13.5 percent in 2011 and then fell to 8.8 percent in 2013.

Recent college grads faced a labor market full of degree holders laid off during the severe recession. The number of people turning 18 peaked in 2009, while the portion of young adults in the United States who completed a four-year college degree hit a record high in 2012. A full third of 25-to-29-year-olds now hold degrees. The rate of young adults earning a bachelor’s degree rose from 28 percent in 2006 to 33 percent in 2013. The increase partly reflects a long-term trend. In 1971, only 17 percent of young adults had four-year degrees. That intensified as the recession nixed job opportunities, spurring college enrollment. Idaho also saw record numbers of students graduating from college in recent years.

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Workforce Consultant Uses Radio Show to Reach Out to Spanish-Speaking Job Seekers


One Idaho Department of Labor employee has partnered with radio station KBWE, Radio Voz Latina, to connect with thousands of Spanish-speaking Mini-Cassia residents on workforce issues and employment trends.

Chet Jeppesen, a bilingual workforce consultant from the Burley office, covers a variety of topics at 9 a.m. every Friday. The show was originally planned for 15 minutes but it proved so informative, it was increased to an hour.

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