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  • II. Strategic Elements

    The Unified or Combined State Plan must include a Strategic Planning Elements section that analyzes the State’s current economic environment and identifies the State’s overall vision for its workforce development system.  The required elements in this section allow the State to develop data-driven goals for preparing an educated and skilled workforce and to identify successful strategies for aligning workforce development programs to support economic growth.  Unless otherwise noted, all Strategic Planning Elements apply to Combined State Plan partner programs included in the plan as well as to core programs. 

II. a. 1. B. Workforce Analysis

The Unified or Combined State Plan must include an analysis of the current workforce, including individuals with barriers to employment, as defined in section 3 of WIOA4.  This population must include individuals with disabilities among other groupsin the State and across regions identified by the State.  This includes—

[4] Individuals with barriers to employment include displaced homemakers; low-income individuals; Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians; individuals with disabilities, including youth who are individuals with disabilities; older individuals; ex-offenders; homeless individuals, or homeless children and youths; youth who are in or have aged out of the foster care system; individuals who are English language learners, individuals who have low levels of literacy, and individuals facing substantial cultural barriers; farmworkers (as defined at section 167(i) of WIOA and Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 35-14); individuals within 2 years of exhausting lifetime eligibility under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program; single parents (including single pregnant women); and long-term unemployed individuals.

[5] Veterans, unemployed workers, and youth, and others that the State may identify.

  • i. Employment and Unemployment

    Provide an analysis of current employment and unemployment data, including labor force participation rates, and trends in the State.

  • ii. Labor Market Trends

    Provide an analysis of key labor market trends, including across existing industries and occupations.

  • iii. Education and Skill Levels of the Workforce

    Provide an analysis of the educational and skill levels of the workforce.

  • iv. Skill Gaps

    Describe apparent ‘skill gaps’.

Current Narrative:

(i) Employment and Unemployment Trends

General Employment Trends

In Idaho, jobs grew at a healthy pace from 2003 through 2006. By mid-2007, the growth began to slow and ended in August when the number of people employed began to decline and continued to decline through mid-2009. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from a record low of 2.9 percent in March 2007 to 9.6 percent in June 2009. At this point, the unemployment rate reached its highest level and remained at this level for the longest period of time since the recession in 1982 and 1983 when the rate peaked at 10.2 percent in December 1982.

However, Idaho’s economy has now fully recovered.  The unemployment experienced a record low seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 2.7 percent in September and October 2018. The rate has since fluctuated between 2.8 percent and 2.9 percent. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has stayed below the national rate since August 2009 (Figure 3).

Figure 3 - Comparison of Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rates between Idaho and the nation, from January 1979 through January 2019


Idaho’s economy has been exhibiting strong healthy growth. The year-over-year number of employed workers has increased and the year-over-year number of unemployed workers has decreased each month since the recession ended in July 2009, with a few minor upticks early on in the recovery. The upward trend has continued for more than 90 straight months.

Unemployment characteristics were easily obtained for the five target sectors. Between 2010 and 2019 all major industrial sectors experienced a decline in the number of new claimants filing for unemployment. Construction and manufacturing reported the most significant decreases. Construction reported 6,912 unemployment workers in 2019 compared to 20,991 in 2010. Manufacturing reported 5,206 unemployed workers down from 15,480 in 2010. In spite of the decrease in the number unemployed across all industries, construction and manufacturing continue to have the highest percent of total unemployed, 18.1 percent and 13.6 percent respectively.

Many of the construction occupations are in two categories – construction and extraction and installation, maintenance and repair – reported 7,338 unemployed in 2019 compared to 22,847 in 2010. Manufacturing occupations are primarily in the production group, which reported 2,980 unemployed workers in 2019 compared to 10,827 in 2010.

Health care and social services, the only sector posting steady growth through the recession, experienced a decline in unemployment with a very slight uptick in 2017. Healthcare practitioners and technician and healthcare support, the occupation groups that encompass the majority of health care’s occupations, accounted for only 3.36 percent of the unemployed in 2019.

Some characteristics of the unemployed are: 64 percent are male, 16 percent are Hispanic (by ethnicity), 75 percent are white and 65 percent are between the ages of 25 and 54. (Detail data is in Data Appendix Table 17 – UI-Claimant Characteristics).

Overall Labor Force Participation

The labor force consists of individuals who are in the workforce employed or looking for work. Idaho’s civilian labor force participation rate—percentage of civilians 16 years and over who are employed or looking or work—in 2018 was 64.2 percent, down from Idaho’s highest participation rate of 70.0 percent in 2005. Idaho’s labor force participation rates have consistently been above the national rates since 2010. In 2005 the state’s participation rate was 70.0 percent compared to the national rate of 66.0 percent. Idaho’s participation rate has been around 64.0 since 2013 except for 2014 when it was 63.1percent. The national rate has hovered around 62.9 during the same period.

The labor force participation rate varies by age group and gender. The most notable difference between 2005 and 2018 was the decrease in the participation rate of Idahoans 16 to 24 years of age. Interestingly, the oldest age group’s participation rate increased.

Table 10: 2018 Labor Force Participation Rates Compared to 2005 Rates (Population in Thousands)

 2018 Civilian Population2018 Civilian Population Labor Force2018 Labor Force Participation Rate2005 Civilian Population2005 Civilian Population Labor Force2005 Labor Force Participation Rate
Population 16 and Over1,33785864.2%1,07375170.0%
65 and older2654416.6%1482316.4%
Population 20 to 64 Years97977379.0%82667381.5%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey

Employment Trends by Population

The table below provides employment information for Idaho’s labor force by age, race, and gender, taken from the American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates for 2014-2018. This information provides insight into whether specific groups may face barriers to employment. Specific trends are discussed following Table 11.

The American Community Survey (ACS) five-year data is the only source for detailed information on unemployment rate by age, race and ethnicity. The Census Bureau released the 2014-2018 estimates in December 2019.

Table 11: Idaho Labor Force by Age, Race and Gender

Population SubgroupsTotal PopulationCivilian Labor ForceEmployedUnemployedUnemployment Rate
Total Population, aged 16 Yrs & Older1,298,537810,287768,73438,0834.7%
Civilian Labor Force 806,373768,70137,6724.7%
16 to 19 years95,88643,72436,8206,77715.5%
20 to 24 years113,38588,32780,0507,3318.3%
25 to 29 years111,48087,73581,9384,7385.4%
30 to 34 years108,72685,45981,8712,9063.4%
35 to 44 years209,204171,338164,8535,6543.3%
45 to 54 years199,059160,641155,4654,8193.0%
55 to 59 years105,50776,80974,4882,3043.0%
60 to 64 years101,48955,00753,0791,9253.5%
65 to 74 years153,60035,32834,0991,2013.4%
75 years and over100,2016,1125,9122143.5%
Race and Hispanic or Latino Origin     
White Alone1,186,723735,768700,16732,3744.4%
Black Alone8,4815,6824,71563611.2%
American Indian & Alaska Native Alone17,1289,9348,7521,18211.9%
Asian Alone19,38211,86211,3773563.0%
Native Hawaiian & Other Pacific Islander Alone2,1821,3531,187886.5%
Some Other Race Alone37,63027,65826,1901,3554.9%
Two or More Races27,01117,58415,8011,7239.8%
Hispanic or Latino Origin of any race137,53697,23891,4615,4455.6%
White Alone, not Hispanic or Latino1,095,852672,853641,07328,9334.3%
Gender (Civilian Labor Force)     

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey

As Table 11 shows, the largest age cohort for Idaho workers is those 35 to 44 years old. The age group experiencing the highest unemployment rate is teens 16 to 19 years old, while the group with the lowest unemployment rate are 45 to 59 years old.

It is important to note that the youth listed in this table are those who are part of the workforce and actively looking for work. The state is implementing several strategies designed to increase employment, education and skill attainment opportunities for this youth demographic.

During the five year period (2014-2018) more than 90 percent of Idaho’s labor force is White alone, and this group has an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent—the second lowest among racial and ethnic groups. The lowest unemployment rate was among Asian alone at 3 percent. Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone make up the smallest portion of Idaho’s labor force at 0.2 percent, and have a 6.5 percent unemployment rate. The highest unemployment rate—11.9 percent— was reported for American Indian and Alaska Native alone, who make up 1.2 percent of Idaho’s labor force. The Black alone also experienced double-digit unemployment rates, 11.2 percent.

People of Hispanic or Latino origin—a designation which crosses multiple racial groups— represent 12 percent of Idaho’s workforce and had an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent.

Men in the workforce were unemployed at a rate of 4.6 percent compared to 4.8 percent for women.

Veterans, another important demographic group in Idaho, totaled 115,045 according to the American Community Survey 2014-2018 data. Over 95 percent of Idaho's veterans are White and males account for 92 percent while 42 percent are between the ages of 35 and 64. This group is well educated with 41 percent having some college or an associate degree and 26 percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The unemployment rate for veterans was 4.5 percent, just above the state’s average rate. Additional information is found in Data Appendix Table 19 - Idaho’s Veterans.

Idaho is home to five Indian reservations - the Coeur d’Alene and the Kootenai (both in northern Idaho), the Nez Perce (north central Idaho), the Shoshone-Paiute (Duck Valley on the Idaho-Nevada border) and the Shoshone-Bannock (Fort Hall in southeastern Idaho). Total statewide reservation population is 33,887 and includes a variety of races outside of Native American. The largest race is White at 22,973, or 68 percent of the total reservation population. The American Indian and Alaska Native population is second with 9,320, or 28 percent. Most of the workers are in management, business, science and arts occupations. Education services, health care and social assistance provide the largest number of jobs at 2,840. Arts, entertainment and recreation, and accommodations and food services has the second largest number of jobs with over 1,500. Four other industry groups—agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting and mining; manufacturing; retail trade; and public administration (government) employ more than 1,000 workers. One-third of the reservations’ population 25 years and over has a high school diploma or equivalency. Over 53 percent have some college or more. Data Appendix Tables 18a and 18b - Idaho Indian Reservations detail further information specific to reservations.

Idahoans with Disabilities

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act calls for enhanced services and opportunities for individuals with disabilities in the workforce system. As a result, this population has been analyzed in greater detail in Idaho’s Combined State Plan. The information below provides a deeper look at Idaho’s population of people with disabilities and the employment trends therein. Data is sourced from the American Community Survey estimates unless otherwise noted.

The number of people with disabilities in Idaho is growing. The American Community Survey one-year estimates of individuals with disabilities in Idaho increased from 204,780 in 2014 to 233,494 in 2018, representing an increase of 14 percent over four years. This indicates Idaho’s population of people with disabilities is increasing at a rate faster than growth in the general population.

According to data from the 2018 American Community Survey, 13.5 percent of Idaho civilians living in the community report having a disability, including 11.6 percent of residents of working age (18-64). The prevalence of disability in Idaho roughly corresponds to that of the United States, with estimates all within one-percentage point each of the past eight-years, with the exception of 2015.

Table 12: Civilians Living in the Community by Age and Disability Status

Civilian PopulationTotalPopulation With DisabilityPercentPopulation Without DisabilityPercent
US Population322,249,48540,637,76412.6%281,611,72187.4%
Idaho Population1,733,484233,49413.5%1,499,99086.5%
Under 5 Years113,6931,1711.0%112,52299.0%
5 to 17 Years330,82817,7995.4%313,02994.6%
18 to 34 Years385,14533,1098.6%352,03691.4%
35 to 64 Years629,20884,45213.4%544,75686.6%
65 to 74 Years167,25242,38625.3%124,86674.7%
75 Years and Over107,35854,57750.8%52,78149.2%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates: 2018 (Table B18101)

The table above demonstrates that the percentage of Idahoans who experience disability varies significantly by age. While this variance can be attributed to a number of factors, in general this rate increases over time with substantial increases both early in life as congenital disabilities are initially identified, and later in life as disabilities are acquired through events or emerge due to the natural aging process. This trend is illustrated in Table 12 above, with only 5.4 percent of individuals aged 5 to17 experiencing disability compared to 13.4 percent for those aged 35 to 64 and 35.3 percent for those aged 65 or older. Because the 35 to 64 age group is quite large, the variance within that group is large as well: around half as many individuals age 18 to 34 experienced a disability

When conducting its research, the American Community Survey includes questions related to six disability categories. Residents are asked if they have difficulty in any of the following areas:

  • Hearing: deaf or having serious difficulty hearing.
  • Vision: blind or having serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses.
  • Cognitive: difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions due to physical, mental, or emotional problem.
  • Ambulatory: serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs.
  • Self-care: difficulty bathing or dressing.
  • Independent living: difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping due to physical, mental, or emotional problem.

Table 13 provides information about the prevalence of these various disability types in Idaho. Self-report of disability category can include responses in multiple categories and therefore exceed 100 percent. The presence of co-occurring disabilities has a negative relationship with competitive, integrated employment.

Table 13: Civilians Aged 18 to 64, Living in the Community by Disability Type

Disability CategoryNumber of Idahoans Reporting a Disability*Percent of Idaho’s Total Population (18-64)Percent with a Disability Reporting a Disability within a Category
Independent Living40,7164.0%34.6%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates: 2018 (Table B18120)

Table 14: Civilians Aged 18 to 64, Living in the Community by Disability Type

Disability TypeTotal Population*Number EmployedNumber UnemployedUnemployment Rate for those in Labor ForceNumber Not in Labor ForcePercent Not in Labor Force
Independent living40,7168,5321,23412.6%30,95076.0%
All Disabilities117,56149,4646,84212.2%61,25552.1%
No disability896,792700,55523,6153.3%172,62219.2%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates: 2018 (Table B18120)

Table 14 shows the employment status of Idahoans by self-reported disability type. Variation in employment between disability categories is substantial. For example, those individuals with hearing impairments participate in the labor force at a rate of 53 percent, and of those only 11.2 percent are unemployed. Whereas those with a cognitive disability participate in the labor force at a rate of 36 percent, and 18.3 percent are unemployed. When taken as a group, Idahoans with disabilities participated in the labor force at a rate of 48 percent, compared to 80 percent for people without disabilities, and the unemployment rate for Idahoans with disabilities was 12.2 percent, on average, compared to 3.3 percent for those without disabilities.

Disability is also strongly associated with poverty: 26.36 percent of Idahoans below age 65, fall below the poverty threshold (ACS, 2018 1-year estimates).

Finally, it is worth noting that 71 percent of Idaho’s growth can be attributed to people moving to the state. Further analysis of population trends by age across time suggest a significant portion of Idaho’s population growth can be attributed to people age 65 and over moving to the state to enjoy a comparatively cheaper cost of living during retirement. These individuals, due to their age, are more likely to report experiencing a disability, and are less likely to be seeking employment than Idaho’s population on average.  This trend is illustrated by a significantly reduced poverty rate for Idahoans with disabilities in retirement age, (13.6 percent for ages 65-74 and 12.1 percent for ages 75 years and over): Those Idahoans with disabilities between 15-65 experience far higher rates of poverty, with all working age cohorts’ poverty rates ranging between 25 and 29 percent.

(ii) Labor Market Trends

This part of Section (II)(a)(1)(B) discusses general trends regarding Idaho’s population and workforce, a discussion of in-migration to our state, as well as trends and changes in Idaho’s population demographics. It also examines wage and income information, and finally, trends relating to Idaho’s job market.

General Population Trends

Idaho’s economy and workforce have historically been, and continue to be, impacted by the state’s geography and population distribution. Idaho is a large, sparsely populated state with a 2018 population of 1.754 million spread across more than 82,000 square miles. Idaho’s average population density is 21.4 persons per square mile, though the population tends to cluster within the six urban counties, Ada, Canyon, Kootenai, Bonneville, Bannock and Twin Falls. The density in these counties is over 94.3 persons per square mile while density in the rest of the state is only 8.5 people per square mile. Ada County has the highest density at 434 persons per square mile. Camas County, one of Idaho’s smaller counties, has the smallest density at 4 persons per 10 square miles. The rural areas, often separated by large distances, mountain ranges and rivers from the nearest urban hubs, pose a challenge for service access and require special consideration in creating any statewide system.

The steady shift of Idaho’s population from rural counties to urban counties continued in 2018. From 1920 until 1972, the population in rural Idaho exceeded that of urban counties. However, from the ‘70s on a new demographic era began as people increasingly moved from more rural to less rural areas resulting in increased concentrations in what today are Idaho’s six most populous counties. The population of those six counties account for nearly two-third of the state’s total population while one third is distributed among the other 38 counties.

The six urban counties had a combined population of 1,145,043 in 2018, accounting for 80 percent of the growth in the state’s population and 65 percent of overall population. Idaho’s largest county, Ada, is located in Southwest Idaho. It is the only county with a population over 400,000.

The Boise Metropolitan Statistical Area (Ada, Boise, Canyon, Gem and Owyhee counties) ranked 8th out of 383 in percentage growth.

Idaho had four counties with a population of 10,000 or more that ranked nationally in the top 100 counties for percentage growth in 2018 – Jefferson and Valley (3.3 percent), Canyon (3.1 percent) and Bonner (2.5 percent).

Idaho’s population and economy are expected to see continued growth. The forces that drove Idaho’s expansion prior to the recession still exist as they did in the 1990s. Population has grown primarily through in-migration of people attracted by Idaho’s quality of life—despite wage and income levels that rank near the bottom of the states. Many of those coming to Idaho are retirees over the age of 65. Increasing population—and an aging population—create more demand for goods and services, which has led to the predominance of the service sector. Our aging population has also increased demand for occupations in the health care industry.

Idaho’s population has grown 38 percent since the turn of the century. The 2019 population estimate, released in December, showed the continuation of Idaho’s strong growth with a 2.1 percent increase, making it the fastest-growing state. Its growth was much faster than the national growth rate of 0.5 percentage points. That was about seven percentage points below the state’s growth in the 1990s but more than three times the growth rate in the last recession decade of the 1980s. Idaho’s population increased by 36,529 in 2018 to 1,787,065. Idaho ranks 40th among the states in overall population, unchanged from 2010.


Idaho’s net migration during 2019 was 27,527 or 1.5 percent of the population growth while the rest of the population growth was due to the difference between births and deaths. This much growth from immigration sets the state as the fastest recipient of population from the surrounding states and California.

The 2019 county population data will not be available until March 2020. In 2018 more people moved into 35 of Idaho counties than moved out. The increase from net migration ranged from 11,056 in Ada County to just 1 in Bear Lake County. Nine counties—Butte, Lincoln, Fremont, Cassia, Clark Lewis, Gooding, Minidoka and Madison—experienced negative migration  – in total, 1,355 more people left than moved in. The 13 counties that make up Idaho’s metropolitan areas accounted for 87 percent of the state’s net migration.

In-migration is expected to increase as Idaho’s economy continues its growth as the state attracts new businesses and local companies expand. With the creation of additional jobs, more local job seekers stay in Idaho, reducing out-migration. At present, there is a shortage of workers and a need for an influx of skilled workforce into the state.

The table below shows in-migration between 2010 and 2019. The recession caused the drop in net migration from 2009 to 2010. Domestic in-migration and out-migration consist of moves where both the origin and destination are within the United States. International migration accounts for any change of residence across the borders of the United States and Puerto Rico. Net international migration is estimated in four parts: foreign born, between the United States and Puerto Rico, of natives to and from the United States and movement of the Armed Forces population between the United States and overseas. The largest component, net international migration of the foreign born, includes lawful permanent residents (immigrants), temporary migrants (such as students), humanitarian migrants (such as refugees) and people illegally present in the United States. After 2011 net migration increased primarily due to the international portion. However, since 2012 net migration increases are largely due to the domestic portion.

Table 15: Idaho Net Migration, July 2010 through Jun 2019

Time PeriodNet MigrationDomesticInternational
July 2010-264-378114
July 20112,0695281,541
July 2012806-7181,524
July 20135,3253,5431,782
July 20149,8048,4821,322
July 20159,7616,7632,998
July 201621,91018,5413,369
July 201726,52525,0071,518
July 201824,14224,020122
July 201927,52727,360167

SOURCE: Annual Population Estimates, U.S. Census Bureau

International migration could be the reason that 10.7 percent of the population over the age of 18 speaks a language other than English – with the predominant language being Spanish. Of those who speak a language other than English, nearly 50 percent were foreign-born, 17 percent have incomes below the poverty level and 33 percent have less than a high school education.

Demographic Trends

According to EMSI, Idaho’s population is expected to grow by 13.7 percent from 2016 to 2026 (Table16a). In the same period, Hispanics, the state’s largest minority, will grow much faster at 23.9 percent (Table 16b).

Over the next decade however, the major demographic impact in Idaho will come from the aging of the population. Although Idaho has a higher percentage of workers aged 24 and younger than the nation as a whole, the state will not be immune from an aging labor force as workers age 55 and older leave the workplace. This will encourage employers to provide a work environment that entices experienced and highly skilled workers to remain on the job and in the state.

The overall composition of the population is also changing. Projections indicate that Idahoans aged 55 to 59 years will decrease by 7.7 percent. The age group 10 to 14 will have the smallest growth at only 0.8 percent. The second smallest growth rate will be in the 25 to 29 year olds, 2.9 percent. Over time, this may mean fewer workers aging into the labor force to replace those aging out. While this trend was somewhat evident between 2000 and 2010, it will become much more pronounced as the youngest in the baby boomer generation pass the threshold of 65 in the coming decade. Even with an expanding cadre of older workers, Idaho has a relatively large number of young people entering or soon to enter the labor force.

Table 16: Projected Population by Age for Idaho, 2016-2026

 20162026Percent Change
Total Population1,682,9351,913,85513.70%
Under 5 years114,743137,00519.4%
5 to 9 years123,004130,3556.0%
10 to 14 years125,303126,2510.8%
15 to 19 years120,786131,9129.2%
20 to 24 years112,423124,09610.4%
25 to 29 years112,158115,3792.9%
30 to 34 years109,006122,63712.5%
35 to 39 years108,863122,73912.7%
40 to 44 years98,164120,01822.3%
45 to 49 years98,203113,75515.8%
50 to 54 years100,505104,5174.0%
55 to 59 years106,76798,565-7.7%
60 to 64 years100,604103,7063.1%
65 to 69 years89,658109,61222.3%
70 to 74 years63,15397,25554.0%
75 to 79 years43,35173,31669.1%
80 to 84 years28,36046,56264.2%
85 years and over27,88336,17429.7%

SOURCE: Economic Modeling Specialist, Inc. (EMSI)

Table 16: Projected Population by Age for Idaho, 2016-2026

 20162026Percent Change
Total Population1,682,9351,913,85513.70%
White, Non-Hispanic1,383,9561,539,15811.2%
Black, Non-Hispanic11,88716,13035.7%
American Indian or Alaskan Native, Non-Hispanic18,78220,79610.7%
Asian, Non-Hispanic23,91231,62132.2%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Non-Hispanic2,8123,89438.5%
Two or More Races, Non-Hispanic32,47543,27233.2%
Hispanic (All Races)209,109258,98423.9%

SOURCE: Economic Modeling Specialist, Inc. (EMSI)

GDP and Personal Income

Another major economic factor in Idaho is wages and income. Although Idaho has a low unemployment rate, the state also tends to have lower average wages compared to the rest of the nation. Low wages may be attractive from the perspective of operating a business, but they also make it difficult to attract highly skilled workers. Idaho’s low average wages can be attributed in large part to the relatively high share of jobs in the food service and retail sectors, where pay is typically low.

Personal income and gross product are indicators for measuring the business activity in a state and a broad measure of the state’s economic wealth. As indicated by Figure 4 and Table 13, personal income and gross state product rebounded in 2010 with consistent annual increases higher than 5 percent.   

Table 17: Idaho Gross Product and Personal Income 2008-2018 (in thousands)

YearGross Domestic ProductPercent Change from Previous YearTotal Personal IncomePercent Change from Previous Year
2008$55,546 $50,205 

SOURCE: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Job Market Trends

Idaho’s industrial make-up shifted since the recession. The jobs losses between 2007 and 2010 primarily came from construction and manufacturing, while many of the jobs gains since 2010 came from accommodation and food services (18,300) and retail trade (14,000). Other industrial sectors that have recorded job growth in excess of 10,000 are health care and social assistance (23,500), construction (19,000), manufacturing (17,000), professional, scientific and technical services (12,000) and administrative support and waste management (10,000).

The bulk of the available jobs are low-wage low-skill jobs in the retail and food service industry. Although the current economic projections show that “combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food” will show the most growth through 2026.

Retail salesperson was second but the model probably does not factor in the current retail shift to online sales. The state workforce agency has provided an increasing number of rapid response services in response to a large trend of national, regional and local retail closures. Despite the retail closures, a review of Idaho’s real-time labor market information from Help Wanted Online for 2019 shows demand for retail workers. There were an average of 389 job openings for first-line supervisors of retail sales workers and 795 openings for retail salespersons, with an average of jobs opened for more than 90 days of 243 and 234 each month respectively.

Although manufacturing jobs have increased, the types of jobs available within the industry are different than before the recession. The growing number of food manufacturers in Idaho are building state-of-the-art facilities. These new facilities require fewer production workers with greater technical and troubleshooting skills.  There is more emphasis on research and development, which require dedicated space and personnel to determine consumer choices. These workers require a different set of skills and more education than manufacturing workers in the past. Some of the demand occupations in food processing will be programmable logic control experts, operations research analysts, software developers and market research analysts.

Health care has continued to grow irrespective of economic conditions. There has been a continuous need for occupations at all skill levels, from certified nursing assistants to primary care physicians. According to Help Wanted Online, registered nurse is the hardest job to fill in Idaho - with an average of 3,907 openings in 2019 and 329 of the postings had continued for 90 days or more. After registered nurses, customer service representatives had an average of 824 openings, just over 20 percent of the openings for registered nurses. However, they ranked fourth in hard to fill with an average of 215 openings.

Retail supervisors and salesperson also were high on both the monthly listings and hard-to-fill lists.  Truck drivers, both heavy and light are consistently in the top ten jobs listing.

Unlike health care, the construction industry is highly affected by the economy. The recession had a devastating effect on this sector - dropping from nine percent of all jobs in 2006 to five percent in 2010. Although construction jobs account for only seven percent of total nonfarm jobs in 2019, the number of jobs have increased 62 percent since 2010, including 28 percent in the past three years alone.

(iii) Education and Skill Levels of the Workforce

This part of Section (II)(a)(1)(B) outlines trends in Educational Attainment for Idaho’s general population, as well as for specific populations with barriers, where data is available. All data is obtained from the American Community Survey 5-year 2014-2018 data.

Educational Attainment - General Population

In Idaho, a significant portion of the population completes high school education. About 87 percent of the 18-24 age group and 91 percent of 25 and older have at least a high school diplomas. However, as discussed further in the following sections, the trend towards high school graduation does not necessarily apply to specific populations with barriers to employment.

While high school participation is generally high, participation drops off at the post- secondary level. About 45 percent of the 18-24 age group have some college or an associate degree, and 6.4 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. For those age 25 and over, 26.4 percent have some college but no degree, 9.6 percent have an associate degree, and 26.9 percent have a bachelors or higher. In other words, the majority of Idaho’s youth graduate from high school, while just over half (51.41 percent) of young adults age 18-24 participate in post-secondary education. And only about one third (36.5 percent) of Idaho’s adults have an associate degree or higher.

Educational Attainment - By Race

The American Community Survey Data provides educational attainment by race for the groups listed below. While races other than white, in combination, make up only 9 percent of the state’s population over the age of 25, these groups do have significant variances in Educational Attainment that are worth noting. For example, within the group of American Indian and Alaskan Natives, only 12 percent have a Bachelor’s degree, compared to 28 percent of White. Among those who self-identify as “Some Other Race” 44 percent have less than high school.

Educational attainment data is also available for Hispanics, which includes all races. The data shows that like “Some other Race” about 40 percent have less than a high school education

Table 18: Educational Attainment by Race

Racial GroupRace Population% of State Population% of Race with Less than High School Diploma% of Race with High School Diploma or Higher% of Race with Bachelor’s or higher
Total State Population 25 and Over1,089,266100%9%91%27%
White alone1,005,34992%8%92%28%
Black or African American alone5,4901%12%88%26%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone13,8131%14%86%23%
Asian alone15,9991%12%86%43%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone1,6400%5%95%28%
Some other race alone28,0413%44%56%5%
Two or more races:18,9342%11%89%24%
Hispanic or Latino (All Races)101,9179%37%63%9%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates - 2018

Educational Attainment - Individuals Age 55 and Over

According to data from the American Community Survey 2018 1- year estimates, individuals 55-64 participate in Idaho’s workforce at a rate of 64 percent, and this age group makes up nearly 20 percent of Idaho’s total workforce. Individuals aged 65 and older participate in the workforce at a much lower rate of 16 percent, but they make up 5 percent of the overall labor force in the state. When combined, these two groups make up nearly 21 percent of Idaho’s total workforce; a depiction of an aging labor force.

While older individuals participate in the workforce at a lower rate than their younger counterparts, they have a relatively comparable mix of educational attainment. The education levels of older individuals in Idaho are generally comparable with those of other age groups. The primary area of difference is that individuals over the age of 65 are less likely to have an associate degree at 8 percent; the lowest of the age groups from Table 19a.

The age group 65 and over has the largest concentration of high schooling than any of the other groups, however, the rest of the age groups appear higher educated or trained as depicted by higher ratios of associates or higher degrees, perhaps depicting the higher educational demands of the most modern times. 

Table 19a: Educational Attainment by Age Group by Percent of Total

 18 to 24 Years25 to 34 Years35 to 44 Years45 to 64 Years 
Less than 9th grade1%2%4%5%3%
9th to 12th grade, no diploma14%6%5%6%6%
High school graduate (includes equivalency)36%29%25%27%31%
Some college, no degree37%25%23%25%28%
Associate's degree5%10%11%11%8%
Bachelor's degree6%22%20%18%16%
Graduate or professional degree1%6%11%9%10%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates - 2018

By gender, educational attainment varies by age group, while younger males exhibit higher rates of high school graduation; females are the ones with larger proportions of higher educational attainment. The same holds true for everyone else from the 25 to the 64 age groups. The 65 and older cohort shows a different kind of educational attainment trend where males hold larger educational accomplishments (Table 19b).

Table 19a: Educational Attainment by Age Group by Percent of Total

 Male, 18-24Female, 18-24Male, 25-34Female, 25-34Male, 35-44Female, 35-44Male, 45-64Female, 45-64Male, 65 +Female, 65 +
Less than 9th grade1%0%2%2%4%4%5%4%3%2%
9th to 12th grade, no diploma16%13%6%5%6%4%7%5%6%6%
High school graduate (inc equivalency)42%29%32%26%29%21%28%25%27%34%
Some college, no degree32%42%26%24%22%25%24%27%28%28%
Associate's degree4%6%9%11%9%13%10%12%8%8%
Bachelor's degree4%8%18%26%18%23%17%19%16%15%
Graduate or professional degree0%1%7%5%11%11%10%9%13%7%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates - 2018

Educational Attainment - Low-Income Individuals

About nine percent of the population age 25 and older have income levels below poverty, but also the lowest levels of education attainment across the board with over twice the rate with less than high school and about one half of the proportion of those above poverty levels and bachelor degrees. This data (Table120), reinforces the assumption that obtaining a high school credential is an important first step towards escaping poverty, while continuing on to post-secondary education provides important additional opportunities to improve quality of life and well-being.

Table 20: Educational Attainment by Poverty Status

Income LevelLess than High SchoolHigh School GraduateSome College or AssociateBachelor’s or HigherTotal
Number Below Poverty18,74437,60534,95413,966105,269
Percent Below Poverty18%36%33%13%9%
Number At or Above Poverty55,984146,562180,427141,0711,023,578
Percent At or Above Poverty8%27%36%29%91%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates - 2018

Educational Attainment - English Language Barriers 

Of those in Idaho’s workforce, approximately 12 percent speak a language other than English at the home, However, this group with language barriers participate in the workforce at in larger proportion than their English-only speaking counterparts (72 vs 62 percent).

The most significant difference between these two populations, in terms of educational attainment, is with regard to high school graduation. For those in the workforce who speak only English in the home, just 4 percent have less than a high school diploma compared to those in the workforce who speak another language at home, 32 percent have less than a high school diploma.

When the data is broken down further by specific languages (including Asian/Pacific Island, Indo-European, Spanish, and Other), an even greater discrepancy emerges. Specifically, for those in the workforce who speak Spanish in the home, 42 percent have less than a high school diploma. This is especially significant in that Spanish speakers represent the largest minority and at the same time hold the largest majority (75 percent) of Idaho’s non-English workforce population.

When taken in combination, these data indicate a significant skills gap for non-English speakers in the workforce, especially for those who speak Spanish in the home.

Table 21: Educational Attainment by Language Spoken at Home for those in the Workforce

Language SpokenLess than High SchoolHigh School GraduateSome College or AssociateBachelor’s or HigherTotal
Speaks Only English (Number)27,948160,460228,890207,131624,429
Speaks Only English (Percent of Total)4%26%37%33%100%
Speaks Other Language* (Number)27,66320,73620,70216,70485,805
Speaks Other Language* (Percent of Total)32%24%24%19%100%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates - 2018      *Includes native English speakers who also speak another language at home, and other bilingual speakers.

(iv) Skills Gaps

Idaho’s workforce development system seeks to prioritize its efforts around those industries and occupations that balance good wages with existing or projected demand for workers, as well as those industries which can have a larger overall weight on Idaho’s economy. Such industries and occupations have been identified in Idaho’s Target Sectors and Hot Jobs List.

However, as described in Section (II)(a)(1)(A) of this plan, a combined 21 percent of Idaho’s jobs in 2019 were in the industries of accommodation food services and retail trade. Many of these jobs pay relatively low wages, require relatively little training or education, and lack a significant multiplier effect on Idaho’s economy. As a result, many of Idaho’s workers are in jobs which may not sufficiently prepare them to move into the types of careers that require additional skills and pay better wages. As such, these workers will need to access training and education outside of their current workplace if they want to advance their skills or careers.

With that being said, there are jobs within these two industries that require training beyond a high school education. Cooks, managers, maintenance workers just to name a few. Individuals in these industries that want to move up the career ladder need to have the opportunity for career ladder advancement

The analysis in Section (II)(a)(1)(A), coupled with education data and direct input from industry lend strong support to the state’s goals to increase educational attainment beyond high school. It is vital that Idaho’s labor force seek educational opportunities or training to qualify for the jobs that will be available over the next 10 years. Of the top 50 hot jobs, 34 require a typical education of four-year degree or higher. Within the top 10, the following nine require some post-secondary education or training while one requires a minimum of high school or equivalent (Industrial Machinery Mechanics).

  • Registered Nurses - Bachelor’s  Degree
  • Software Developers, Applications - Bachelor’s Degree
  • Nurse Practitioners - Master’s Degree
  • Physician Assistants - Master’s Degree
  • Information Security Analyst – Bachelor’s Degree
  • Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists - Bachelor’s Degree
  • Pharmacists - Doctoral or Professional Degree
  • Physical Therapists - Doctoral or Professional Degree
  • Loan Officers – Bachelor’s Degree

There is a high probability that not enough workers can be trained for these in-demand occupations within the next ten years. For example, as the health care sector continues to expand, Idaho’s colleges and universities are experiencing near record enrollments. Already some programs in nursing and medical technical jobs cannot expand to meet the demand due to lack of available instructors.

In addition to adequate availability of such programs, cost is one of the biggest challenges for Idaho workers in obtaining the training and education they need to meet the skill demands of the evolving job market.

Idaho workers’ educational credentials will need to increase in order to obtain higher-paying jobs. And yet, pervasive low wages can make it difficult for Idaho workers to access the training and education needed to upgrade their skills without the availability of external financial resources. Addressing the affordability of college education, expanding the “learn while you earn” model and expanding registered apprenticeships may help address this opportunity gap, especially for populations with significant barriers to employment and education.

The Research Bureau collaborated with the Idaho Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Workforce Development Council and Associated General Contractors to conduct a highway construction skills gap report and compiled what survey respondents felt were the missing skills in job applicants. Most of the skills or soft skills were generalized and included math, reading, safety awareness good work ethic, showing up on time, communication and problem solving.

An enhanced focus on career pathways and stackable credentials may also help address this gap. Many jobs on the hot jobs list can be part of a career ladder and lend themselves to stackable credentials in education. A nurse could start as a certified nursing assistant or licensed practitioner nurse. A pharmacist technician could work while going to school to be a pharmacist and have inside knowledge of the job. Idaho’s work on career ladders and stackable credentials is addressed in Section (II)(c)(1).

Finally, the analysis in Section (II)(B)(i) shows that youth ages 16-24 have a much higher unemployment rate than other age groups. As teens and young adults are finding it harder to get jobs in the current labor market, fewer are learning the basics of how to hold on to a job or getting the opportunity to learn about various occupations and industries by working or interning in them. The strategies identified above may also be appropriate to address this cohort of workers.