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Automation and how technology will change the way we work is an overarching theme in economic analysis today. Computing power has made workers more effective and efficient in a variety of industries, and in some settings human workers have been replaced altogether.
Manufacturing is a prime example. Products assembled by long lines of robotic equipment are a visible reminder of how technology has changed the way Americans work. Since 2000, American industrial output – defined as the total value of the country’s factories, mines and power plants – has grown by just over 10 percent, adjusted for inflation. In that same period, total employment – the number of working hours required to create that output – has shrunk by 29 percent. Technology has made American industry more efficient than ever, and factories are getting increasingly more production out of a shrinking workforce.
Idaho’s “micro” counties, rural counties that have no town with a population greater than 5,000 within their borders, have experienced significant differences in economic growth and development from the state’s urban counties as well as other, larger rural counties.
Rural issues have received significant attention in Idaho. In addition to research conducted within the Idaho Department of Labor, both the Governor’s Office and the Department of Commerce have discussed specific initiatives aimed at fostering economic growth in rural Idaho.
Department of Labor analysts define “rural” as all counties that do not contain an urban center, as noted in previous articles. This definition doesn’t recognize some of the differences in non-urban counties by assuming any county without an urban center is “rural.” Further narrowing the definition to “micro” counties for the purposes of this analysis avoids this issue by identifying Idaho’s smallest communities and defining their counties as rural.
Though last spring’s labor market for college graduates was hot, the Class of 2017 will likely find the best job market in 10 years when they graduate this spring. Surveys suggest that employers are ramping up their recruitment efforts for this year. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Dec. 18 that college graduates are entering the strongest job market the country has seen in nearly a decade. New grads also are expected to find more job openings here in Idaho. Placement offices at Idaho universities report more employers are showing interest in their students graduating this spring.
Michigan State University’s Recruiting Trends, released in September, projected hiring should be very strong for the Class of 2017. Company growth and employee turnover are expected to increase hiring of newly minted bachelor’s degree holders by 19 percent, according to 4,350 employers of all sizes across industries and in all states. Sectors experiencing heavy growth include hospitality and food services; arts and entertainment; finance; real estate and leasing; transportation; and retail and wholesale trade.
The city of Coeur d’Alene is moving forward with a bike share program. The city council reached an agreement with Zagster, a Massachusetts-based company that has created more than 140 bike share programs around the country. City officials stressed the focus of the program is on commuters and is not designed to compete with companies that rent bicycles to tourists. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The landmark Dingle Building in the heart of downtown Coeur d’Alene is under new ownership, and the new owners have proposed to turn the property into a boutique hotel. This plan would include retail and restaurant space on the ground floor of the building with and an added fourth story to provide additional hotel occupancy. The plans have been submitted to the city and now await approval. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
North Idaho College has asked the state legislature for $594,900 to provide two free courses at NIC for Idaho residents during the summer quarter of 2017. NIC officials expressed hopes that providing free courses during the summer will raise their fall enrollment numbers. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Two AceCo employees troubleshoot a newly added accessory to a Lathe.
AceCo received a $25,000 Workforce Training Fund grant a year ago that continues to yield growth for the Boise company.
AceCo applied for the grant when the company found itself unable to hire new CNC machinists with the level of experience or GibbsCAM training required. The grant enabled the company to provide the needed training to employees currently in entry level positions, helping both the company and the employees.
Workforce Training Funds allowed AceCo to fly in a trainer so the employees could receive the specialized GibbsCAM training required. “These machinists were all entry level employees with some experience in the field but lacked the specific training we needed them to have,” said Jonathan Scobby, controller for AceCo. “These employees each received a certification of completion and experience which makes them more competitive because they can take that anywhere.”
Idaho’s population has grown since the last recession, rising to 1.65 million people in 2015, a 5.3 percent increase since 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of households increased by 3.6 percent from 2010 to close to 590,000 in 2015 according to American Community Survey one-year estimates. Much of the growth has been concentrated in southwestern Idaho due to the expanding Boise metropolitan area. How has income fared in the same time period?
The U.S. Bureau of Economic analysis estimates that with the exception of a period of decline during the recession of 2007-09, per capita personal income has grown steadily over the past decade. When adjusted for inflation, the real per capita income grew by 9.2 percent from 2010 to 2014. The Inflation-adjusted median household income likewise grew by 11 percent between 2010 and 2015.
The city of Rathdrum has announced plans to form an urban renewal agency. The goal of the agency will be the development of Rathdrum’s large vacant areas which are currently zoned for light industrial. Rathdrum is home to two technical schools, and city officials expressed hope that development of the industrial areas will help keep graduates from these schools working in the city. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Empire Unmanned – a northern Idaho manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles – has announced that it will offer a certification course for commercial drone pilots. The company’s sales tripled in 2016 as commercial uses for drones have proliferated. The certification course, which will be offered at North Idaho College, will reflect the evolving regulatory requirements promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The Coeur d’Alene school board voted in favor of a $35.5 million bond measure and a $32 million operating levy, both of which will be put before votes in March. The measures come amid rapid enrollment growth which has left Coeur d’Alene schools significantly overcrowded. Due to rising assessed property values, tax rates would not increase even if both the bond and the levy are approved. Source: Spokesman Review