U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Located in:
  • 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:

The state plans on addressing several technical assistance items identified by the federal review team after the plan’s submission.


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 decrease through mid-2009. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from a low of 2.9 percent in March 2007 to 9.6 percent in June 2009. However, following this sharp increase in the unemployment rate, Idaho’s economy began to recover, and the unemployment rate steadily declined over the next several years to a record low of 2.5 percent in late-2019.

Following the emergence in COVID-19 in early 2020 and the Idaho Governor’s Stay-at-Home order in response, Idaho experienced a sharp spike in unemployment, reaching a record high of 11.6 percent unemployment in April 2020. By the end of 2020, Idaho’s economy showed signs of recovery, with unemployment rates declining to 3.8 percent by December. Idaho’s unemployment rate has continued to remain below the national average since 2001. Figure 3 (below) shows the comparison of Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate to the national average.

Figure 3. Comparison of Idaho’s Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment rate to the U.S. Average

ID's Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rate compared to U.S. Average, 1980-2020

Prior to COVID-19, Idaho’s economy had been exhibiting strong healthy growth. The year-over-year number of employed workers increased, and the year-over-year number of unemployed workers decreased each month since the recession ended in July 2009, with a few minor upticks early on in the recovery.

When Idaho’s Governor enacted a Stay-at-Home order at the end of March 2020, Idaho’s initial unemployment claims spiked from a typical level of 1,031 to nearly 33,000 within two weeks. Idaho’s continued claims reached a peak of 71,794 claimants filing in early May of 2020. The industries most affected include accommodation and food service, health care and social assistance, and retail trade, together accounting for more than half of initial claims at the peak.  One year later – in March of 2021 – initial claims in those three industries returned to near pre-pandemic levels, each having more than an 80 percent reduction.

Retail trade and health care account for the top two industries by projected employment in 2030. Since 2010, employment in health care and social assistance has increased 37 percent from 72,800 to 99,800; retail trade was reported at 93,200 in January of 2021, up more than 24 percent from 75,000 in 2010. While retail trade is projected to account for the second-most employment in the state, relative growth is projected to slow down to under 10 percent, less than half the relative growth from 2010 – 2020.

Top occupations held by unemployment claimants in December of 2020 include construction and extraction – accounting for 15 percent – building cleaning and maintenance, and transportation and material moving. Compared to December of 2019, the number of claimants in those occupations have increased by more than 10 percent.

Some characteristics of the unemployed are: 62 percent are male, 16 percent are Hispanic (by ethnicity), 53 percent are white and 59 percent are between the ages of 25 and 54. Most of these metrics are close to the demographic figures for the entire civilian labor force (employed and unemployed) with the exception of race. Idaho’s civilian labor force is comprised of 90 percent workers who are white, a significantly higher proportion than the 53 percent of unemployed workers of the same race.

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 2019 was 63.2 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. In the 1-Year American Community Survey 2019 estimates (2020 data was not released due to COVID-19), ages 25-54 had the highest labor participation rate at 81.3 percent. The next highest was ages 16-24 at 67.4 percent. Men had a participation rate of 68.2 percent and women 58.5 percent. Table 9 shows the labor participation rate by age and gender.

Table 9: 2019 Labor Force Participation Rates by Age and Gender (Population in Thousands)

 2019 Civilian Population2019 Civilian Population Labor Force2019 Labor Force Participation Rate
Population 16 and Over1,38687763.2%
65 and older2885117.7%
Population 20 to 64 Years1,00277877.6%

Source: Census.gov, American Community Survey

Employment Trends by Population

The table below provides employment information for Idaho’s labor force by age, race, and gender, taken from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates for 2015-2019. This information provides insight into whether specific groups may face barriers to employment. Specific trends are discussed following Table 10.

This American Community Survey data is the only source for detailed information on unemployment rate by age, race and ethnicity.

Table 10: Idaho Labor Force by Age, Race and Gender

Population SubgroupsTotal PopulationCivilian Labor ForceEmployedUnemployedUnemployment Rate
Total Population, aged 16 Yrs. & Older1,327,132828,116792,23735,8794.50%
AgeTotal PopulationCivilian Labor ForceEmployedUnemployedUnemployment Rate
16 to 19 years96,96645,37338,5486,82517.70%
20 to 24 years114,61089,49982,6856,8148.20%
25 to 29 years114,37089,93285,3224,6105.40%
30 to 34 years110,60486,87684,0432,8333.40%
35 to 44 years214,214174,713169,4695,2443.10%
45 to 54 years200,024162,304157,9564,3482.80%
55 to 59 years107,07077,87075,6722,1982.90%
60 to 64 years104,38556,99255,2711,7213.10%
65 to 74 years160,19738,05737,0481,0092.70%
75 years and over104,6926,5006,2232774.50%
Race and Hispanic or Latino OriginTotal PopulationCivilian Labor ForceEmployedUnemployedUnemployment Rate
White Alone1,205,357747,756716,61131,1454.20%
Black Alone8,3175,2524,8044488.50%
American Indian & Alaska Native Alone17,85910,4359,4759609.20%
Asian Alone20,02212,42112,0423793.10%
Native Hawaiian & Other Pacific Islander Alone2,1141,3311,17815311.50%
Some Other Race Alone43,39931,27129,9791,2924.10%
Two or More Races30,06419,65018,1481,5027.60%
Hispanic or Latino Origin of any race143,364100,85695,7125,1445.10%
White Alone, not Hispanic or Latino1,115,497684,818657,13727,6814.00%
Gender (Civilian Labor Force)Total PopulationCivilian Labor ForceEmployedUnemployedUnemployment Rate

Source: Census.gov, American Community Survey

As Table 10 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 54 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 (2015-2019) more than 90 percent of Idaho’s labor force is White alone, and this group has an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent—the third lowest among racial and ethnic groups. The lowest unemployment rate was among Asian alone at 3.1 percent. Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone make up the smallest portion of Idaho’s labor force at 0.1 percent and yet have an 11.5 percent unemployment rate – the highest of all racial groups. American Indian and Alaska Native alone as well as Black experienced the next highest unemployment rates, at 9.2 and 8.5 percent, respectively.

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 5.1 percent.

Men in the workforce were unemployed at a rate of 4.4 percent compared to 4.2 percent for women.

Military veterans, another important demographic group in Idaho, totaled 116,157 according to the American Community Survey 2015-2019 data. Nearly 95 percent of Idaho's veterans are White, and males account for 92 percent while 36 percent are between the ages of 35 and 64. This group is well educated with nearly 30 percent having a bachelor’s degree or higher. The unemployment rate for veterans was 4.4 percent, more than 50 percent higher than the state’s average unemployment rate in 2019.

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 reservation population for Idaho is 33,377 and includes a variety of races outside of Native American. The largest race is White at 21,950, or 66 percent of the total reservation population. The American Indian and Alaska Native population is second with 8,933, or 27 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 2,758. Arts, entertainment and recreation, and accommodations and food services have the second largest number of jobs with over 1,661. 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 68 percent have some college or more.

Employment by Poverty Status

In 2021, the federal poverty guideline is $12,880 for a 1-person household and increases by $4,540 for each additional household member. In Idaho, the 5-year ACS estimates reveal that 141,903 — or 10.4 percent of Idahoans —were living in poverty. Of those individuals, 56 percent were female. Slightly less than half (45 percent) of persons living below the poverty threshold were in the labor force — 89 percent of whom were actively employed and the remaining 11 percent unemployed but looking for work.  The remaining 55 percent of persons in poverty were not in the labor force. This contrasts with the 90 percent of Idahoans with income at or above poverty level. For those above the poverty level, more than 65 percent of persons were considered in the labor force, with 97 percent of those actively employed. The unemployment rate of persons living below the poverty threshold was more than 4 times higher than those not living in poverty. Table 12 outlines the labor force participation of persons by poverty status.

Table 11: Labor Force by Poverty Status

 TotalPercentLabor Force Participation RateEmployedUnemployedUnemployment Rate
Below Poverty Level141,90310.4%45.9%57,9677,09910.9%
Above Poverty Level1,214,93689.6%66.5%787,13321,3312.6%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates: 2019

Idahoans with Disabilities

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act calls for enhanced services and opportunities for individuals with disabilities in the workforce system. 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 241,391 in 2019, representing an increase of 17 percent over five years, which is a faster rate of increase than the general population growth. An increase in disability awareness may also be contributing to the rise in numbers.

According to data from the 2019 American Community Survey, 12.7 percent of Idaho civilians living in the community report having a disability, including 10.5 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 Population323,120,67841,089,95812.7%282,030,72087.3%
Idaho Population1,764,911241,39113.7%1,523,52086.3%
Under 5 Years115,8371,0630.9%114,77499.1%
5 to 17 Years332,59220,0656.0%312,52794.0%
18 to 34 Years393,02635,0118.9%358,01591.1%
35 to 64 Years639,58686,89713.6%552,68986.4%
65 to 74 Years172,55242,44024.6%130,11275.4%
75 Years and Over111,31855,91550.2%55,40349.8%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates: 2019

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 6.0 percent of individuals aged 5 to17 experiencing disability compared to 13.6 percent for those aged 35 to 64 and 34.6 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 DisabilityPercent of Idaho’s Total Population (18-64)Percent with a Disability Reporting a Disability within a Category
Independent Living38,4293.7%31.5%

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

Table 14: Employment Status by Disability Type

Disability TypeTotal PopulationNumber EmployedNumber UnemployedUnemployment Rate for those in Labor ForceNumber Not in Labor ForcePercent Not in Labor Force
Independent living38,4299,1891,06911.6%28,17173.3%
All Disabilities121,90854,4174,0077.3%63,48452.1%
No disability910,704727,64922,4293.1%160,62617.6%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates: 2019

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 63 percent, and of those only 4.9 percent are unemployed. Whereas those with a cognitive disability participate in the labor force at a rate of 39 percent, and 10.3 percent of this collection are unemployed. When taken as a total group, Idahoans with disabilities participated in the labor force at a rate of 48 percent, compared to 82 percent for people without disabilities, and the unemployment rate for Idahoans with disabilities was 7.3 percent, on average, compared to 3.1 percent for those without disabilities.

Disability is also strongly associated with poverty: 24.7 percent of Idahoans below age 65 having a disability fall below the poverty threshold (ACS, 2019 1-year estimates).

Finally, it is worth noting that a significant 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, (8.8 percent for ages 65-74 and 8.3 percent for ages 75 years and over). Compared to the 2014 1-Year ACS estimates, both age groups have seen reductions in poverty rate from 13.8 and 9.9 percent, respectively. Those Idahoans with disabilities between 18-65 experience far higher rates of poverty, with all working age cohorts’ poverty rates ranging between 23 and 32 percent.


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 2020 census population of 1.839 million spread across more than 82,000 square miles. Idaho’s average population density is 21.9 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 140 persons per square mile while density in the rest of the state is only 7.9 people per square mile. Ada County has the highest density at 424 persons per square mile. Camas County, one of Idaho’s smaller counties, has the smallest density at 6 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 continues. From 1920 until 1972, the population in rural Idaho exceeded that of urban counties. However, from the 1970s 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-thirds 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 1,198,462 in 2020, accounting for more than 75 percent of the growth in the state’s population since 2019 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.

Idaho had four counties with a population of 10,000 or more that ranked nationally in the top 100 counties for percentage growth between years 2010 – 2020. These include Madison (41 percent), Ada (26 percent), Kootenai (23 percent) and Canyon (22 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 44 percent since the turn of the century. The 2020 decennial census, showed the continuation of Idaho’s strong growth with a 2.9 percent increase, making it one of the fastest-growing states in the US. Its growth was much faster than the national growth rate of 1.0 percentage points. It was similar to the state’s peak growth rate in the 2000-2010 decade, occurring in 2006 just before the recession, and more than four times the growth rate in the recession decade of the 1980s. Idaho’s population increased by 52,041 in 2020 to 1,839,106. Idaho ranks 38th among the states in overall population, up two compared to the 40th most populous ranking in 2010.


Idaho’s net migration during 2020 was 30,961 or 82 percent of the population growth while the rest of the population growth was due to the difference between births and deaths. This much growth through in-migration sets the state as one of the fastest recipients of population growth, primarily from the surrounding states and California.

In 2020 more people moved into 40 of Idaho counties than moved out. The increase from net migration ranged from 12,519 in Ada County to just 7 in Power County. Four counties—Caribou, Custer, Lemhi, Lewis — experienced negative migration, where 70 more total people left than moved in. The 14 counties that make up Idaho’s metropolitan areas accounted for 87 percent of the state’s net migration.

As the state attracts new businesses and local companies expand, in-migration is expected to increase as Idaho’s economy continues its growth. 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 a skilled workforce into the state.

The table below shows in-migration between 2010 and 2020. 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
  • Natives to and from the United States
  • 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; international migration has since declined significantly following 2017.

Table 15: Idaho Net Migration, July 2010 through Jun 2020

Time PeriodNet MigrationDomesticInternational
July 2010-194-381187
July 201123375241813
July 20121035-7211756
July 2013557435352039
July 20141005984701589
July 20151006567713294
July 201622168185503618
July 201726857250351822
July 20182486424401463
July 20192922428466758
July 20203096130283678

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

International migration could be the reason that 10.8 percent of the population over the age of 5 speaks a language other than English – with the predominant language being Spanish. Of those who speak a language other than English, nearly 45 percent were foreign-born, 17 percent have incomes below the poverty level and 30 percent have less than a high school education.

Demographic Trends

According to Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) – a labor market analytics and economics firm – Idaho’s population is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2020 to 2030 (Table16a). In the same period, Hispanics, the state’s largest minority, will grow much faster at 33 percent (Table 16b).

Over the next decade however, the major demographic impact in Idaho will come from the aged. Although Idaho has a higher percentage of workers aged 24 and younger than the rest of the country, 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 60 to 64 years will decrease by 1 percent while age groups 65 and older will all increase by 15 percent or more. The age group 55 to 59 will have the smallest growth at only 2 percent. The second and third smallest growth rates will be in the 10 to 14-year-old at 3 percent, and 15 to 19-year-old at 8 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 present 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, 2020-2030

 20202030Percent Change
Total Population1,826,9132,148,16818%
Under 5 years113,848137,81821%
5 to 9 years125,055139,10711%
10 to 14 years132,772136,5953%
15 to 19 years127,139137,2278%
20 to 24 years119,974134,14612%
25 to 29 years122,723135,30210%
30 to 34 years118,855137,61516%
35 to 39 years120,252144,47920%
40 to 44 years113,978139,53322%
45 to 49 years104,222134,17529%
50 to 54 years101,277121,86620%
55 to 59 years109,050111,5862%
60 to 64 years111,774110,442 (1%)
65 to 69 years102,392117,94315%
70 to 74 years83,550112,65535%
75 to 79 years55,79790,65962%
80 to 84 years33,84161,80683%
85 years and over30,41445,21449%

SOURCE: Economic Modeling Specialist, Inc. (EMSI)

Table 16(b): Projected Population by Age for Idaho, 2020-2030

 20202030Percent Change
White, Non-Hispanic1,487,5641,692,46614%
White, Hispanic209,735279,05333%
Two or More Races, Non-Hispanic38,47653,16138%
Asian, Non-Hispanic27,09538,61743%
American Indian or Alaskan Native, Non-Hispanic19,43822,24614%
Black, Non-Hispanic13,79319,84144%
American Indian or Alaskan Native, Hispanic12,39814,36616%
Two or More Races, Hispanic9,13713,34546%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Non-Hispanic3,2755,21359%
Black, Hispanic2,9784,61855%
Asian, Hispanic2,1873,57964%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Hispanic8371,66299%

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. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) defines personal income as “the income that people get from wages and salaries, social security and other government benefits, dividends and interest, business ownership, and other sources.” As indicated in Table 17, personal income and gross state product rebounded in 2010 with consistent annual increases. In 2020, Idaho’s gross domestic product experienced the smallest increase since 2010, at 1.7 percent. However, total personal income for 2020 increased by 9.2 percent, the highest year-over-year change in the past decade. The BEA notes that this sharp increase in personal income from 2019 to 2020 reflects the additional income received through CARES Act pandemic relief payments.

Table 17: Idaho Gross Product and Personal Income 2008-2020 (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 2007 recession. The jobs losses between 2007 and 2010 primarily came from construction and manufacturing, while many of the jobs gains between 2010 and 2020 came from health services and social services (25,200). This was followed by a rebound in construction (24,400) and manufacturing (14,800). Other industry sectors that have recorded job growth in excess of 10,000 are accommodation and food services (14,800), retail trade (13,500), and professional and technical services (13,200).

In comparison to all 2020 job openings, the demand for registered nurses topped the list, which was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and exacerbated by the need for healthcare workers overall. Following this were low-wage low-skill jobs in the customer-service and retail industry. However, although current economic projections rank healthcare and social assistance and retail trade as holding the bulk of jobs in 2030, retail trade is projected to have the slowest growth of all industries from 2020 – 2030 at just under 5 percent . This is a significant shift from earlier years that projected large growth in retail trade, with the model conceivably now factoring in the current retail shift to online sales.

Despite the retail closures, a review of Idaho’s real-time labor market information from Help Wanted Online for 2020 shows continued demand for retail workers. There was an average of 640 job openings for first-line supervisors of retail sales workers and 896 openings for retail salespersons, with an average time of fill of 36 and 33 days, respectively.

Although manufacturing jobs have increased, the types of jobs available within the industry are projected to grow at different rates. Between 2020 and 2030, computer and electronic manufacturing is projected to grow by more than 20 percent. While food manufacturing represents the largest share of job in the industry, it is projected to grow by 12 percent.

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 1,784 openings in 2020 with an average time to fill of 39 days. After registered nurses, customer service representatives had an average of 993 openings, about 25 percent less than registered nurses. However, they ranked fifth in hard to fill with an average of 327 monthly openings.

Retail salesperson were high on both the monthly listings and hard-to-fill lists.  Additionally, truck drivers 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 2020, the number of jobs has increased 78 percent since 2010, including 24 percent in the past three years alone.


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 2015-2019 data.

Educational Attainment - General Population

In Idaho, a sizable portion of the population completes their 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 diploma. 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 44 percent of the 18-24 age group have some college or an associate degree, and 6.9 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. For those age 25 and over, 26 percent have some college but no degree, 9.8 percent have an associate degree, and 27.6 percent have a bachelors or higher. In other words, the majority of Idaho’s youth graduate from high school, while just over half (51 percent) of young adults age 18-24 participate in post-secondary education. And a little more than one third (39 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 8 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, among Asians, 43 percent hold a bachelor’s degree, compared to the next highest group at 28 percent (White alone).  Among those who self-identify as “Some other race,” 44 percent have less than a high school diploma.

For Hispanics, which includes all races, the educational attainment data shows about 35 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 Over1,115,556100%9%91%27%
White alone1,023,71792%8%92%28%
Black or African American alone5,4761%9%91%26%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone14,6861%15%85%13%
Asian alone16,5612%12%88%43%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone1,6630.1%7%93%23%
Some other race alone32,3653%44%56%6%
Two or more races:21,0882%11%89%28%
Hispanic or Latino (All Races)106,97410%35%65%10%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates - 2019

Educational Attainment - Individuals Age 55 and Over

According to data from the American Community Survey 2019 1-year estimates, individuals at ages 55-64 participate in Idaho’s workforce at a rate of 64 percent, making up nearly 16 percent of Idaho’s total workforce. Individuals aged 65 and older participate in the workforce at a much lower rate of 17 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; depicting 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 difference is that individuals over the age of 65 are less likely to have an associate degree at 9 percent; the lowest of the age groups (25+) from Table 19a.

Younger age groups have a higher proportion of bachelor’s degree achievement, as more than 20 percent of the 25 – 44 age group obtained this certification. This is an increase of more than 5 percentage points compared to those 65 and older. The higher educational attainment is possibly a reflection of the greater educational demands of 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 65+
Less than 9th grade2%2%3%3%3%
9th to 12th grade, no diploma10%5%5%6%6%
High school graduate (includes equivalency)38%29%23%25%28%
Some college, no degree37%26%24%26%27%
Associate's degree6%10%11%12%9%
Bachelor's degree7%21%22%17%16%
Graduate or professional degree1%6%11%10%12%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates - 2019

Educational attainment by gender actually varies by age group - while younger males exhibit higher rates of high school graduation; females have higher levels of educational attainment. The same holds true for 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 Gender/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%2%2%3%3%3%4%3%3%3%
9th to 12th grade, no diploma12%9%6%4%7%4%7%5%5%7%
High school graduate (including equivalency)41%34%32%25%27%19%27%23%27%29%
Some college, no degree36%37%25%28%23%25%25%28%25%28%
Associate's degree5%8%9%11%10%13%11%12%9%9%
Bachelor's degree5%9%19%24%20%23%16%19%18%15%
Graduate or professional degree0%1%6%6%11%12%11%10%15%9%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates - 2019

Educational Attainment - Low-Income Individuals

About nine percent of the population age 25 and older have income levels below poverty, with 21 percent of those attaining less than a high school diploma falling into this category. This is more than five times the rate of those holding bachelor’s degrees. This data (Table 20), reinforces this belief that obtaining a high school credential is an important first step towards escaping poverty, and that continuing towards post-secondary education provides important additional opportunities to improve quality of life and well-being. More than 90 percent of people holding a high school credential or higher remain out of poverty status.

Table 20: Educational Attainment by Poverty Status

Income LevelLess than High SchoolHigh School GraduateSome College or AssociateBachelor’s or Higher
Number Below Poverty20,09030,57735,92512,594
Percent Below Poverty21%10%8%4%
Number at or Above Poverty77,621266,981388,604322,797
Percent at or Above Poverty79%90%92%96%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates - 2019

Educational Attainment - English Language Barriers 

Approximately 12 percent of Idaho’s workforce speak a language other than English at home.   Of this group, those with limited English proficiency participate in the workforce in a larger proportion than their English-only speaking counterparts.

The most significant difference between these two populations is their education level, specifically the attainment of a high school education. For those in the workforce who speak only English in the home, only 4 percent have less than a high school diploma compared to those in the workforce who speak another language at home, 30 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. For those in the workforce who speak primarily Spanish in the home, 36 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 (73 percent) of Idaho’s non-English workforce population.

When taken in combination, these data indicate a significant skills gap for limited English proficient 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) 29,129 160,391 252,169 209,071650,760
Speaks Only English (Percent of Total)4%25%39%32%100%
Speaks Other Language* (Number) 27,363 23,232 21,906 20,198 92,699
Speaks Other Language* (Percent of Total)30%25%24%22%100%

SOURCE: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates - 2019     *Includes native English speakers who also speak another language at home, and other bilingual speakers.


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 Occupations-In Demand.

However, as described in Section (II)(a)(1)(A) of this plan, nearly 20 percent of Idaho’s jobs in 2020 were in the combined 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.

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, 26 require a typical education of four-year degree or higher. Within the top 10, the following seven require some post-secondary education or training while three require a minimum of high school or equivalent (First-line Supervisors of Construction Workers, Hazmat Removal Workers, and Electricians).

  • Construction Managers - Bachelor’s Degree
  • Dental Hygienists - Associates Degree
  • Cost Estimators – Bachelor’s Degree
  • Registered Nurses – Bachelor’s Degree
  • Environmental Engineers – Bachelor’s Degree
  • Physical Therapists - Doctoral or Professional Degree
  • Sales Engineers - Bachelor’s Degree

In the most recent list of Idaho’s In-Demand Occupations (2020), there has been a shift to construction-related positions now reflecting a larger share of the top 10 occupations, more than the 2018 estimates. This is likely in response to the rapid growth Idaho has experienced in recent years and the difficulty in recruiting workers.

Not only does the limited capacity of available training programs’ ability to deliver appropriate training come into play, but their 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 additional 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.

In 2019, the Research & Analysis 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, and 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 registered nurse could start as a certified nursing assistant or licensed practical nurse. A construction manager could gain skills while working as a first-line supervisor. A dental hygienist could work while going to school to be a dentist 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.