Bannock County is trying to attract new businesses and help existing companies grow, but in order to regain prerecession employment levels, food and high-tech manufacturing payrolls need to expand.
The most recent unemployment statistics for Bannock County suggest the economic tide is turning in the Pocatello area. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in February was 5.2 percent, a tenth of a point below the statewide rate.
Still employment in Bannock County could be better. Through the recession and since, the total number of workers on the job decreased nearly 7 percent from 40,100 in 2007 to 37,400 in 2013.
That decline far exceeds employment statewide, where jobs were still a tenth of a percent below 2007 levels, and nationally, where jobs were 1.5 percent below. Except for Power County, counties surrounding Bannock have fared better in the recovery. In fact, Bear Lake and Franklin counties had higher employment levels in 2013 than in 2007.
Power County in southeastern Idaho is one county with more employment losses than Bannock, however Power County is in the same Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as Bannock County and is likely influenced by the same economic forces.
Bannock County’s comparatively weak employment recovery is not just limited to southeastern Idaho. The county’s recovery also lags when compared to other parts of the state.
It is likely the lag in employment growth since the recession ended is more than just bad economic luck. Manufacturing has been one important industry where Bannock County has seen job losses.
After increasing 80 percent from 2001 and 2007, jobs in food manufacturing fell between 2007 and 2013, erasing more than half the earlier gains. The contraction in food manufacturing likely fueled indirect losses in other areas of the local economy as well.
While food manufacturing jobs in Bannock County averaged wages of about $36,000 a year, several thousand dollars short of the statewide average wage for all jobs, food manufacturing has a relatively high job multiplier. Food manufacturers in Bannock County buy the majority of their raw products from local farms, which in turn spend that money on local products and services.
The job-creating power of food manufacturing is underscored in Twin Falls County, with a 15 percent increase in food in manufacturing jobs between 2007 and 2013. Despite the job losses between 2007 and 2013 in other sectors, the growth in food manufacturing helped Twin Falls County’s overall employment increase by 2.3 percent from 2007 to 2013.
For Bannock County, the loss of food manufacturing jobs was not the only factor responsible for a slow recovery. Employment in computer and electronic manufacturing dropped 37 percent with a loss of hundreds of jobs that averaged more than $91,000 a year in wages.
The impact of high tech job losses on job creation and retention in other sectors no doubt contributed to essentially flat per capita income in 2012 of $29,972 – well behind the state at $34,481 and the nation at $43,735.
Dan.Cravens@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 236-6710, ext. 3713