Some Eastern Idaho Industries Rebounding

The strength of agriculture and food processing in eastern Idaho sheltered the region to a degree from the past recession. Unemployment rates in most southeastern counties never exceeded 9 percent. Oneida, Franklin, Madison, Teton and Bear Lake counties all topped out around 7 percent.

Health care was another sector that helped offset job losses. Between 2007 and 2009, health care added 2,100 jobs as the region’s elderly population rose while many other sectors were shedding workers.

Despite that growth, employment in the 16 eastern counties dropped more than 9,000. Construction and administrative and support and waste management and remediation services combined for a majority of those losses – construction losing 3,200 jobs and administrative support another 2,400.

Another 1,200 jobs disappeared in higher-paying professional, scientific and technical services as the Idaho National Laboratory scaled back, affecting Bannock, Bingham, Bonneville and Jefferson counties. Picture2

Some recovery has occurred since 2009. Through 2014, health care and social assistance grew 15 percent, generating 2,300 jobs. Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services was up 16 percent with over 1,000 new jobs and wholesale trade rose 10 percent, or more than 750 jobs.

Several industries in southeastern Idaho continued to lose jobs through 2014. Manufacturing grew only 1 percent, or 140 jobs. Construction dropped another 1,100 jobs after losses posted during the recession. The information sector declined by 23 percent, or 500 jobs, and retail trade jobs declined by 3 percent for a loss of almost 500 jobs. Professional, scientific and technical services also saw job losses following the recession, declining 10 percent, or nearly 1,200 jobs.

Change in jobs

Overall the 16 eastern counties saw a net gain of just 900 jobs between 2009 and 2014, well short of recovering the 9,000 jobs lost to the recession.

Bannock County, the largest in southeastern Idaho lost nearly 3,800 jobs through 2014 despite a slight uptick during the past three years.

Since the recession officially ended in mid-2009, government has dropped over 550 jobs in Bannock County while construction declined by another 300 and accommodations and food services nearly that many. Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services lost over 100 jobs, about the same decline as manufacturing.

Health care and social assistance remained steady, adding more than 900 jobs – many to meet demands of the county’s new consolidated hospital – and finance and insurance rose over 300, reflecting the opening of Allstate Insurance’s new service center in Chubbuck.

While Bannock County, the hub of the seven-county southeast Idaho region, struggled, Bonneville County to the north performed better. Between 2009 and 2014 employment in eastern Idaho’s largest county grew more than 1,600. Manufacturing was up 23 percent, wholesale trade 16 percent, health care and social assistance 14 percent and administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 40 percent.

In Bonneville County construction fell 19 percent between 2009 and 2014, information was off 31 percent and transportation fell 16 percent.

Eastern Idaho has experienced job recovery, but it has been tepid. With some economists forecasting an economic slowdown sometime in the next couple of years, it may be even longer before the region recovers the jobs it lost during the recession.

Dan.Cravens@labor.idaho.gov,
regional economist (208) 236-6710 ext. 3713