Idaho’s Population Growth Slowed During Recession

Idaho’s population growth dropped from an annual average of 2.7 percent prior to the recession to  0.7 percent through the recession and into the recovery.

Much of the growth was slowed by the loss of Idaho’s 20-somethings and 45- to 49-year-old population bloc. In 2010 alone, over 10,000 20- to 29-year-olds left Idaho — a loss of 4.5 percent and an anomaly over the past decade. Since then, the rate of 20- to 24-year-olds has been rebounding while the state continues to show losses in the 25- to-29-year-old bloc. As of 2013, there was no net change in that age group, offering hope that age group is coming back.

The drop in 20-somethings through the recession illustrates how mobile the workforce has become. As more opportunities arise elsewhere, workers will migrate.

The 45- to 49-year-old population also saw some losses through the recession, but these losses are attributed to aging baby boomers. From 2005 to 2009 the 40- to 44-year-olds showed a similar consistent annual decline. If this pattern persists as expected, the next age group will see losses every four to five years.

This structural shift in the labor force – not only in Idaho but nationwide and, in some cases, globally – fuels the concern for a labor force shortage.

At its current pace, Idaho’s working age population is projected to increase 0.2 percent a year – or 14,000 people – over the next decade while the 65-and-over group is expected to jump 40.7 percent – or 90,000 residents. Most recent employment projections by the Idaho Department of Labor show 109,000 new jobs from 2012 to 2022. This does not include additional jobs due to replacements and churn from retirements, migration and other reasons, which accounts for an additional 157,600 jobs. Replacement rates are based on a national survey.

A slow outmigration of the working age population has become a trend in Idaho. Second to Utah, Idaho has the lowest proportion of working age individuals in the country. The proportion of Idaho’s working age population has declined slightly over the past several years from 65 percent to 64 percent. While it may not seem like a lot in nominal terms, it accounts for the removal of 18,200 workers from Idaho’s workforce. The nation remained stable at 67 percent.

Despite the percentage increase of elderly residents in all states during the past several decades, selected areas saw a more extreme increase. Florida continues to have the highest proportion of population over age 65 at 18.6 percent. Maine at 17.8 percent and West Virginia at 17.3 percent closely follow. Idaho has the ninth fastest growing population in this age group in the country – 12.4 percent of 65 years and older in 2010 to 13.8 percent just three years later.

Idaho is still a relatively young state countered by a somewhat large proportion of children age 14 and younger – similar to Utah, but the Gem State is also aging faster than most other states.

For every person age 65 and older, there are 4.6 working age Idahoans today. Ten years ago, there were 5.8 and by 2023, that ratio is projected to drop to 3.3.

As boomers prepare for retirement, workforce training becomes increasingly important to employers looking to train the next generation of workers – the millennials. The 14- to 34-year-old age group makes up 27 percent of Idaho’s population and will require additional education and training to meet employer needs.

An aging population and workforce are only tenuously linked and depend heavily on prevailing labor force participation patterns. On an annual average, labor force participation started trending downward in 1998 as growth in the working age population ebbed and the number of people age 65 and older grew.

Similar to population trends, labor force participation among 25- to 29-year-olds has been eroding since 2007 and is slowly making its way back to pre-recession levels. Labor force participation has been on the rise for the age groups of 50-54, 60-64 and 65 plus.

idaho Pop changeParticipation ratePart rate by agePop growth by state

Alivia.Metts@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 457-8789 ext. 3486