The state of Washington’s high minimum wage puts pressure on wages in northern Idaho, especially in the communities closest to the border — Lewiston, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and the Priest River area. With Washington’s jump from $9.47 to $11 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017, wage pressures on the Idaho side increased.
In November 2015, the Washington Legislature approved Initiative 1433, which will increase its minimum wage incrementally until it reaches $13.50 an hour in 2020. After that, it will automatically increase with the cost of living. Three other states – Arizona, Colorado and Maine – also passed initiatives in November increasing their minimum wages. All three will raise their wages incrementally until they reach $12 in 2020. Prior to the election, California, New York and Oregon already established pathways to $12 an hour or more in the coming years. Altogether, 29 states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. In addition, some cities impose minimum wages above their states’ minimum wages. For example, Seattle’s minimum wage for larger employers is set to increase to $15 by 2020.
While the number of unemployed Idahoans has steadily declined since May 2009, jobless rates for broader definitions of unemployed – such as discouraged, underemployed and marginally attached workers – improved significantly in 2016.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) identifies six measures, or categories, of unemployment rates based on varying components of the labor force – U-1, U-2, U-3, U-4, U-5 and U-6. (See Figure 1 for definitions.) In Idaho, the official unemployment rate falls into the U-3 category.
Idaho’s broadest measure, U-6, improved to No. 12 in the nation in 2016, three spots better than last year and 23 spots better than the No.35 ranking in 2009 as the nation was coming out of the Great Recession. The U-6 rate is the broadest formal measure of labor underutilization – or underemployment – the BLS reports. It’s determined by the total number of unemployed persons, plus all marginally attached workers, plus the total number of workers who are employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers, Many economists use this definition as the most statistically reliable measure because it uses the most robust protocols for sampling and data collection. Continue reading →
North Idaho College received a $482,000 grant from the Idaho Department of Labor to train more than 200 workers in wood products manufacturing. The grant is a partnership with Lewis-Clark State College and a consortium of wood product manufacturers in northern Idaho. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Work has begun on a $5.44 million revitalization of the Seltice Way arterial. The project – which is expected to continue into 2018 – will provide a new streetscape, roundabouts and bike lanes, as well as upgraded water and waste utilities. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Kootenai County continues to have a banner year for building permits in 2017. At the conclusion of the first quarter, the cities of Hayden, Rathdrum and Post Falls were all at or near record paces for issued building permits. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
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.
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.
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
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.
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.