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.
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
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
STCU credit union opened a new branch in downtown Coeur d’Alene after remodeling a former Bank of America Location. The new location, which offers business services and consumer and commercial lending, is STCU’s 20th branch overall and its third in northern Idaho. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The Coeur d’Alene Planning Commission approved a permit for Lake Drive Apartments to build a 30-unit, five-story apartment complex in the underdeveloped East Sherman neighborhood. Lake Drive expressed hopes that construction could be completed in the summer of 2017. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The city of Coeur d’Alene relaxed its rules governing child care business licenses and will now grant licenses to applicants with marijuana charges more than five years old. The change was made to address a serious local shortage of child care providers. The city expressed optimism that the relaxed rules will help address the shortage. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
This is the second of a three-part series about Idaho’s rural economy. This part evaluates which dynamics influence rural Idaho’s dwindling labor force.
Part oneexamines elements impacting Idaho’s rural economy today, including population, educational attainment, industries, occupations and wages.
Part three projects how rural Idaho’s population by age group and labor force participation will look in 10 years based on the previous 10-year trends.
A lack of skilled labor is an ongoing struggle for Idaho’s rural economy. Idaho’s rural labor force has not grown since 2010; during the same period, the state’s urban labor force grew by more than 7 percent. The question of labor force is therefore critical to evaluating rural economies. Specifically, it is important to understand what caused stagnation in rural labor forces. In this analysis, we evaluate demographic and economic factors to determine whether rural labor force issues are caused by the usual suspects – aging and economic conditions – or whether there are other, undiagnosed problems. This analysis suggests that rural Idaho’s labor forces have declined for demographic and economic reasons, and not due to cultural or structural factors which are unique to rural economies.
Idaho’s unemployment rate – the ratio of the number of unemployed persons to the total number of participants in a labor market – is often viewed as the go-to measurement of economic health. Yet it can be misleading as the unemployment rate can decline both due to employment growth – unemployed persons finding work – and a decrease in the total labor force – unemployed persons stop looking for work altogether. The former case represents an increase in economic activity, while the latter does not. Continue reading →
Thorne Research – a Sandpoint-based nutritional supplement manufacturer – announced it is pulling out of northern Idaho. The company, which employs 270 people in the region, will build a new facility outside of Charleston, South Carolina. The new facility is expected to open in 2018. At that time Thorne plans to close all its northern Idaho operations. Source: Bonner County Daily Bee
Kootenai County’s building division has hired two out-of-state companies to conduct and plan reviews in an attempt to work through a large backlog of building permits. Permit requests in the county are at an all-time high – even surpassing the boom of 2005-2007 – and the county’s building division lacks the staff to keep up with demand. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
A toxic blue-green algae outbreak has been detected in the chain lakes along the Coeur d’Alene River. Health advisories have been issued by the Panhandle Health District, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe encouraging people to avoid eating fish from the affected lakes and to avoid recreating near visibly polluted water. Source: Spokesman Review
Northwest Specialty Hospital in Post Falls announced the opening of a new digestive surgery center. The new center – formally called the Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery – will give patients the ability to receive all their digestive consultations, diagnostics and treatment options in one location. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The Post Falls Outlet Mall – which was formerly mostly vacant – continued its streak of new openings over the last month. Escape Adventures, SNR Costume Rentals and Ace Industrial Supply recently opened in the outlet mall. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press