Tag Archives: idaho economy

Demographics Contribute to Idaho’s Digital Divide

The term “digital divide” was popularized in the late 1990s and described a growing gap between those individuals with access to the internet and other information and communications technology, and those without. Since then, concerted effort has been made to provide physical access to close this gap.

Today, most households, workplaces and classroom computers are internet enabled. Data from 2015 showed that more than 80 percent of Idaho’s civilian population ages 3 and up used the internet, more than double the rate in 1998. Digital technology has evolved rapidly to incorporate a wide range of uses from emailing to blogging to online and blended learning in classrooms. Digital hardware and software are constantly in flux with the more recent shift to mobile devices and cloud storage.

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Declining Rental Vacancies Put Pressure on Eastern Idaho

While demand for rental units in eastern Idaho has steadily increased since the 2008 recession, supply has not kept pace.

Leading into 2008, rental vacancies were at an all-time high peaking at roughly 10.5 percent across the nation (Figure 1). Although more vacancies frustrate landlords who are unable to fill rentals, it creates a preferable – or buyer’s – market for consumers. Before the recession there were abundant rental options, competitive prices and space for populations to expand.

Whenever the economy takes an economic downturn, especially a severe instance like 2008, there is a stagnation in construction. Rental property construction took a huge hit during this time and almost stopped completely. At the same time many people were losing their homes and being forced into rental units. Within the first few months of 2008, rental units became a hot commodity and, as shown in Figure 1, rental vacancies drastically declined.

The U.S. economy began to recover a couple years post-recession; however, rental housing construction took several additional years to begin recovering. And now, even as the economy is recuperating, those people who would have naturally moved out of rentals and into homes did not. These renters were prevented from purchasing homes for a variety of reasons, such as tougher lending standards, decreased household formation, reduced incomes, unemployment and job insecurities mostly brought about by the recession.

As the economy has recovered, most of the barriers to home buying that were present early on after the recession have been overcome. Lending standards and job insecurities have relaxed while unemployment has dropped and incomes are upward bound. However, availability of rental housing is still low. In 2016, the United States rental vacancy rate was 6.8 percent – still down almost 4 percent from pre-recession rates – and the West has the lowest vacancy rate in the nation at 4.4 percent (Figure 2).

The eastern Idaho population has grown by almost 15,000 since 2008 yet there have been few additional rental properties built in the region. Supply of rental units has stagnated, but demand for these units has grown exponentially. According to economic theory, as demand increases for a product without a change in supply, the price for the product increase. This theory is unfolding in the region today.

A survey taken of 10 apartment complexes representing more than 4,000 units in the Idaho Falls / Ammon area showed that all increased rental rates at least once in the last year with some increasing rates three or four times. This survey also exposed the high demand for new rental options, but only one complex was expanding and had rented nearly 77 percent of the units before construction was completed.

As demand continues to outweigh supply, prices will continue to rise. The side effects are evident as higher rental cost is eating into savings meant for down payments on homes, thus residents are staying in rental units longer than anticipated. Spending more money on rent also means residents have less disposable income to spend in their local economy. If the supply does not quickly catch up to eastern Idaho’s high rental demand, this rising rental price trend will continue.

As eastern Idaho continues to market toward expanding its population and retaining its natives, potential renters will hit a bottleneck and in-migration due to relocation may be dissuaded if the rental supply does not increase. If the goal is to obtain more consumers and increased workforce in the region, consumers require greater rental supply and competitive pricing. Having these amenities will only help to attract a talent pool to eastern Idaho.

Hope.Morrow@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 525-7268 ext. 4340

Around Idaho: March 2017 Economic Activity

Information provided in this article is from professional sources, news releases, weekly and daily newspapers, television and other media.

Northern Idaho
North Central Idaho
Southwestern Idaho
South Central Idaho
Eastern Idaho

NORTHERN IDAHO – Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai & Shoshone counties

Boundary County

  • A large mudslide derailed a Union Pacific train near Moyie Springs on March 15. No injuries were reported, though 12 railroad cars loaded with grain were involved in the derailment. Due to the steep terrain in the area, it was not immediately possible to bring in equipment to move the derailed cars. Multiple mudslides and floods have been reported since then, leading to a state of emergency declared by Boundary County and the city of Bonners Ferry. Source: Bonner County Daily Bee

Kootenai County

  • The city of Post Falls will use an Idaho Transportation Department grant to improve pedestrian pathways and trails and construct new pathways in the city center.
  • Kootenai County declared a state of emergency on March 16 in response to extensive flooding caused by heavy rain and melting snow pack. Areas affected by flooding include Cataldo, Fernan Lake Village, Hayden and Rathdrum.
  • School levies around Kootenai County were successful in March. Plummer-Worley, Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Lakeland school districts all passed their respective levies.

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‘Routine’ Jobs More Susceptible to Automation


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.

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Idaho’s ‘Micro’ Counties Face Labor Force, Jobs Challenges

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.

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Job Prospects Looking Up for This Year’s College Grads

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.

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Idaho Income Trends Show Post-Recession Rise

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.

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