Idaho Job Openings Grow During Recovery

2013 was a solid year for the recovery, both in Idaho and nationally. The recovery appears to be continuing into 2014. Employment is up, the unemployment rate is down and hard hit sectors like construction and manufacturing are starting to show year-over-year employment gains. Job postings are also at an all-time high, even when compared to the boom years before the recession.

Using the Conference Board Help Wanted Online Data Series, which collects job posting information from a myriad of online sources, both the nation and Idaho are showing strong improvement in the number of jobs being advertised. Nationally, the peak month in 2013 had 34 percent more online job postings than the peak month in 2007. In Idaho, the percentage is over 50 percent higher. Some of these increases can possibly be attributed to an increase of companies using online tools to recruit workers, but given the other positive metrics of the last year it is a solid assumption to believe that a sizable portion of the growth is genuine.

Graph 1

The majority of the occupations posted in the last 120 days are similar both nationally and in Idaho. Over a quarter of all ads are for sales and office and administrative support positions. Computer jobs rank next nationally followed by management and health care practitioners. For Idaho the effect of the Silver Tsunami – the strong increase in the 55-and-older population – and the state’s large proportion of food manufacturing and agricultural goods requiring transportation is showing up in job ads for health care practitioners, which ranked third followed by transportation and management jobs.

table 1

Among the state’s regions, southwestern Idaho with its large population and employment base accounts for the majority of job ads. The other regions have similar proportions of ads although the recovery of job postings has varied since 2005. North central Idaho has recorded a smaller gain against its prerecession ad level but has had a strong increase the last three years. Northern Idaho, in contrast, had a high level of prerecession job ads, and while the last three years have seen improved listings over 2009 and 2010, the region is not back to levels experienced during the expansion. South central Idaho’s 2013 performance was drastically different from any previous year, most likely due to the expansion in food products manufacturing.

Graph 2

Comparing the regional percentages of the labor force and jobs ads, however, shows that southwestern Idaho had an exceptional 2013. The region has 47 percent of the state’s labor force but almost 56 percent of the online job ads. North central Idaho is the only other region where the percentage of ads exceeded the share of workforce.

Graph 3

There are differences among the regions with regard to what occupations are being posted, but again sales and office and admin support are making up the majority. Southwestern Idaho lists computer and mathematical occupations within its top five highlighting the area’s strong tech sector, and eastern Idaho is the only region to list construction and extraction operations.

Table 2

Looking at the 10 most common occupations listed in Idaho over the past 120 days, there are few surprises. Heavy truck drivers, registered nurses and retail salespeople have accounted for the majority of job postings for some time. Promising is that seven of the top 10 occupations have a 2012 median wage higher than the state median of $14.58 an hour although the wages for the specific postings are not available.

Table 3, Regional Economist
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