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Idaho payroll jobs closest to pre-pandemic levels

U.S. seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment was 7.6 percent lower in August than February.

Idaho jobs dropped 1.8 percent-the smallest drop among all 50 states. In six states, job cuts were greater than 10 percent.

Idaho's manufacturing sector showed the greatest strength compared to the other states. While U.S. manufacturing jobs in August were 5.6 percent lower than in February, Idaho enjoyed a gain-1.3 percent. In only other state-Colorado-did manufacturing grow (0.2 percent). Five states saw decreases greater than 10 percent, with the hardest-hit Alaska experiencing a 25.6 percent decrease. Most of Idaho's major manufacturing industries held steady-including high-tech, food processing, and wood and paper products. The semiconductor industry seems posed to grow in coming months due to increased demand for memory chips from high-end computing--including cloud computing and 5G mobile network rollout. Lumber prices soared to all-time high of $900 in recent month, buoying wood product employment. The hoarding of toilet paper and other tissue products this spring boosted Idaho's paper industry. With more people pursuing outdoor pursuits because of COVID-19, the state's recreational technology companies-which make equipment for hunting, fishing, whitewater sports, boating, and camping-have added jobs. While food processors that mostly sell to restaurants and cafeterias cut some jobs, other food processors in Idaho enjoyed a surge in demand for their products. The net result appears to be a small addition of jobs.

Construction's vitality has helped Idaho. In only four other states does construction make up a larger share of nonfarm payroll employment. Prior to the pandemic, construction provided 7.0 percent of Idaho's nonfarm payroll jobs, while it provided 5.3 percent of U.S. jobs. In addition, Idaho enjoyed faster growth in construction jobs since the pandemic began. U.S. seasonally adjusted construction employment dived 5.6 percent between February and August, while Idaho was one of only six states where it rose.

Its 1.1 percent increase ranked 5th highest for construction growth. The fastest growing states were South Dakota (8.6 percent) and Utah (4.6 percent). Eight states lost more than 10 percent of their construction jobs between February and August.

Driving Idaho's construction activity is its exceptional strong population growth. Between 2014 and 2019, Idaho's population rose faster than any other state's. It increased9.6 percent, nearly three times faster than the nation's 3.1 percent.

Retail employment fell 4.2 percent in the U.S. between February and August, while it fell 2.8 percent in Idaho. Only Colorado had a smaller decrease-2.3 percent. The state with the largest decrease was New York, where retail jobs shrank 10.3 percent.

The main reason why Idaho's retail sector has outperformed other states is Idaho's remarkable population growth during recent years. In addition, strong construction activity in the last couple of years has benefitted building material, garden supply, furniture, carpeting, and appliance stores.

The hardest-hit sector in most states was leisure and hospitality. Seasonally adjusted jobs in the sector plummeted 24.5 percent in the U.S. between February and August. Idaho leisure and hospital jobs declined 10.4 percent. That was the fourth lowest decline among the 50 states. Mississippi saw the smallest deterioration-6.4 percent. Ten states experienced job losses greater than 30 percent-with Hawaii experiencing the worst-52.6 percent. The states where leisure and hospitality make up the largest shares of payroll jobs-Nevada, Hawaii, and Florida-have undergone the greatest job losses during the pandemic.

In general, urban areas across the nation have suffered greater losses in tourism activity than more rural areas. Cities that typically host large conventions, large amounts of business travel, and considerable numbers of international tourists suffered massive declines in tourism. Rural areas offering lots of outdoor activities, like Idaho, saw the smallest declines.

Some of the wind in Idaho's sails came from its long-term economic growth. While U.S. nonfarm payroll jobs grew 8.3 percent between December 2014 and December 2019, Idaho grew nearly twice as fast-16.5 percent. Only Utah grew faster than Idaho-17.4 percent rate. Nine other states grew more than 10 percent. Five states lost jobs during the five-year period.

Taking the pulse of Idaho households

This summer, the Census Bureau began a weekly survey of American households that provides weekly information about how the pandemic is affecting education, employment, food spending and insufficiency, housing issues, access to health care, and symptoms of anxiety and depression. The survey shows that the economic crisis precipitated by the pandemic has endangered the economic well-being of many Idahoans, but the crisis has caused relatively fewer problems for Idahoans than for their fellow Americans.

Below are highlights from the survey conducted during the week ending Sept. 14:

  • In Idaho, 40.1 percent of Idaho households had experienced a loss of employment income since March 13, while 46.1 percent of the U.S. population did.
  • About 58,800 Idahoans said they were not working because their employers experienced a reduction in business, went out of business, or closed due to the pandemic.
  • About 7.3 percent of Idaho households with mortgage reported they were not currently caught up on their mortgage payments. That's an estimated 39,157 Idaho households. About 9.8 percent of U.S. households were not current with their mortgage payments.
  • 8.3 percent of Idaho homeowners with mortgages expressed no or slight confidence in their ability to make next month's mortgage payments, compared to 11.6 percent in the U.S.
  • While 16.9 percent of Idaho households that were not current on their mortgage payments said it was somewhat likely or very likely they would have to leave their homes due to foreclosure in the next two months, compared to 19.3 percent of similar U.S. households. That is about 6,600 Idaho households.
  • The pandemic economic crisis has led to food insufficiency in many Idaho households. Prior to March 13, 33,000 Idaho households with children said they sometime or often did not have enough to eat. In September, 42,000 did.

Taking the pulse of Idaho businesses

The Census Bureau surveys businesses each week to learn about their experiences during the pandemic. In the survey for the week ending September 21, no Idaho businesses responding said they thought their businesses would have to close in the next six months compared to 5 percent of U.S. respondents. About 14 percent of Idaho businesses said they needed to obtain financial assistance or additional capital during the next six months, compared to 22 percent of U.S. businesses. Idaho companies expressed greater confidence in the future when 30 percent said they would need to hire new employees in the next six months, compared to 24 percent of U.S. companies.

Operating capacity is the maximum amount of activity this business could conduct under realistic operating conditions.

Many Idaho businesses expect it will be a while before their business returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Window on the Clearwater
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Orofino, ID 83544
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