Idaho's Workforce Has Shrunk More Than Most States

Aug 19, 2014

Idaho's July jobless rate was 4.8 percent, nationally, it's 6.2 percent.
Credit Nancy / Flickr Creative Commons

Fewer Idahoans, nearly 6 percent, are working today than in 2007 before the Great Recession began.

State-by-state analysis of employment data, from calendar year 2007 to fiscal year 2014, show only two other states have seen a greater workforce decline among 25- to 54-year-olds.

"In 2007, before the recession 83 percent of people between 25 and 54 in Idaho, were employed," says Pew director of economic health Jeff Chapman. "And in the most recent 12 months for which we have data, through June 2014, only 77.3 percent of people in that age group in Idaho were working."

Pew's analysis shows no states have increased its share of workers since 2007.

Only New Mexico and Nevada have seen a larger drop in their workforce since 2007.
Credit Pew Charitable Trusts / Screengrab

Each month, the state labor department releases data on how many Idahoans are unemployed. By that measure it would appear Idaho is making gains in recovering from the recession. But the monthly jobless rate doesn’t measure how many people have given up searching for work. And the rate includes people at the margins, like younger workers and folks who are about to retire, which can give an inaccurate picture of the labor force.

Pew prefers using the employment rate as a measure of a state's workforce health.

Chapman says fewer people at work, means less money for states to pay for things like schools, healthcare, and infrastructure needs.

"When people are out of work, they don’t have paychecks and they’re going to pay less in income tax," says Chapman. "They’re going to tend to buy less, so that reduces the sales tax they’re paying. Then on the other side of the ledger, unemployed people tend to need more services such as Medicaid or other safety net programs.” 

Find reporter Emilie Ritter Saunders on Twitter @emiliersaunders

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