In-Migration Boosts Economy on Many Levels

Out-migration had a negative impact on population growth in all but one county in south central Idaho from 2010 to 2015.

That one county — Twin Falls — has seen substantial in-migration over the past five years and is likely taking in residents who are leaving other south central Idaho counties, in addition to other parts of the state, the nation and even internationally. This is a boon for the area labor force as both domestic and international in-migration provides a source of diversely skilled workers for businesses. Twin Falls County estimates more than 1,000 foreign in-migration from 2010-2015. This addition of a vibrant, young population with the drive to rise above its previous generations, both economically and academically, is a boost during current challenges posed by an aging population.

Sudden shifts in south central Idaho county populations has traditionally been tied to jobs. In the latest Population Estimate Release from the U.S. Census Bureau, most of the region’s growth over the past year has been related to jobs but not directly. Individuals are applying for jobs and transferring in to work for some the newest companies, expanding ones or research & development companies.

The attraction of new workers has spurred growth in other areas. Retail and restaurant establishments have been on the rise over the past year in both Twin Falls and Burley, supporting the new residents and as a consumer hub driven by rural residents. New schools currently under construction in Twin Falls and reports of new students in each school district offer hard evidence of jobs attracting residents. Twin Falls County continues to be an example of job creation driving in-migration from other counties statewide and nationally, almost perfectly balanced with natural growth during the time frame 2010-2015.

SCI-pop-shareSource: Economic Modeling Specialists Inc.

The eight-county region of south central Idaho is projected to see an age shift in the next 10 years, with higher population ratios at each extreme: the older and the younger. During times of expansion, as is the current state of the economy, employer demand for workers contributes to an increasing in-migration of new residents in the prime working years of ages 20-59.

The recently released population statistics also indicate population growth for the area is primarily due to natural growth – the result of tallying births and subtracting deaths. Idaho is considered a young state because its population overall has a greater ratio of younger people than the national average. And while south central Idaho is considered one of the younger regions of the state, its larger families compensate for the slightly higher proportion of retirees. In the lower four regions of the state, births are usually 50 percent higher than deaths over the same period.  But in the two regions of northern and north central Idaho, the populace is older and births only average 15 to 25 percent greater than deaths annually.Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Net in-migration statewide from 2014-2015 was significantly more robust than the five-year annual average of less than 6,000. If growth continued trending at that rate, the net in-migration estimate for 2015-2020 would outpace the 2010-2015 numbers by 54 percent.

The regions experienced a big drop in natural growth in these latest one-year estimates.

In-Migration-by-RegionNatural-Growth-by-RegionSource: U.S. Census Bureau

International in-migration has been flat over 2014-2015 but the domestic in-migration really under-performed coming out of the most recent recession. This was a period when the nation was less mobile partly because of the uncertainty in the job market but also because the housing market tanked and many homeowners were underwater equity-wise. Most markets dropped substantially and homeowners would not realize the equity investment return if sold and they might have even had to pay to rid themselves of ownership, so homeowners sat tight.

Northern Idaho is driven almost entirely by domestic in-migration. Geographically close to the Spokane market, it has been ‘found’ by California and Washington retirees and second-home owners. The population age trends older in northern Idaho which results in lower natural growth than southern Idaho.

components-of-pop-change10-15Source: U.S. Census Bureau

In summary, Idaho regions tackle different challenges based on the composition of its population. Growth and development can be a boon or a contentious issue in some communities. Ultimately, it would appear that attracting a younger population will ensure a vibrant economy and community.

Jan.Roeser@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 735-2500 ext 3639