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.
Many factors have affected the economic picture on international, national, state and local levels over the past five to 10 years.
In Southwestern Idaho one example is a strong population growth. Over the decade from 2005 to 2015, this region’s population increased from nearly 617,000 to 750,000, a 22 percent increase. The two urban counties, Canyon and Ada, grew faster than this rate, while the other eight counties grew slower, highlighting the continually deepening divide in urban-rural population growth that is occurring across Idaho.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
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.
Idaho’s population growth dropped from an annual average of 2.7 percent prior to the recession to 0.7 percent through the recession and into the recovery.
Much of the growth was slowed by the loss of Idaho’s 20-somethings and 45- to 49-year-old population bloc. In 2010 alone, over 10,000 20- to 29-year-olds left Idaho — a loss of 4.5 percent and an anomaly over the past decade. Since then, the rate of 20- to 24-year-olds has been rebounding while the state continues to show losses in the 25- to-29-year-old bloc. As of 2013, there was no net change in that age group, offering hope that age group is coming back.
The drop in 20-somethings through the recession illustrates how mobile the workforce has become. As more opportunities arise elsewhere, workers will migrate.
Millennials – people born between 1980 and the late-1990s – are the largest generation in the U.S. population and critical to economic success of the nation and Idaho. Today, there are almost 73 million millennials in the U.S. and over 365,000 in Idaho, where they are growing faster than the rest of the nation. This particular demographic also represents the workforce of the future.
Employers often characterize millennials as lacking soft skills, entitled, unmotivated and having a tendency to “job-hop.” While there is undoubtedly a need for this cohort to meet an employer’s expectation for soft skills, it is also worth taking a deeper look at the root cause of these stereotypes and identify any underlying circumstances that might influence the ability of millennials to succeed in today’s job market.
Idaho millennials are more likely to have a job, but on average, earn about $3,000 less than their national counterparts and are more likely to live in poverty. While education rates have increased in Idaho and nationally since 1980, Idaho millennials are also significantly less likely to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, which could explain the below-average wages they earn compared to their counterparts.
Nationally millennials are living at home with a parent and the rate of those living alone has remained stable and low. Compared to the US, Idaho millennials are less likely to live alone or with a parent and much more likely to be married. They are also slightly more likely to be veterans and significantly less likely to be minorities.
Idaho’s population remains one of the youngest states in the nation, but continues to age faster than most others, new U.S. Census Bureau estimates show. Even the nation’s youngest county, Madison in eastern Idaho, aged slightly faster than eight other Idaho counties.
The median age statewide was 35.5 years in 2013, more than two years younger than the national median age. Just four states – North Dakota, Texas, Alaska and Utah – and the District of Columbia were younger.
However, since 2010, Idaho’s median age has increased nearly a full year – from 34.6 years. Only Maine, New Hampshire and Utah saw larger increases.
Migration, both international and domestic, drove Idaho’s significant population growth prior to the recession, but home equity erosion, a stagnant real estate market and lost jobs slowed Idaho’s population growth.
Even as other states lose population, Idaho’s has continued to grow at a much slower rate, but that growth has been natural – births exceeding deaths in a state where the median age of 35.2 years, more than two years below the national median age. Utah with its larger families has the lowest median age among the states and the District of Columbia. Like Idaho, both North Dakota and California are states that see high levels of migration, based on driver’s license data from the Idaho Department of Transportation. Idahoans have looked to North Dakota for jobs while Californians have looked to Idaho for its quality of life and comparatively low housing prices.