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Shifts, trends in statewide employment seen in Idaho labor landscape

Chloe Baul//January 22, 2024

Idaho’s transportation and warehousing sector saw an unexpected decline of -1.6% year over year. Despite the ongoing need for warehouse workers and drivers, the industry is facing challenges. (PHOTO:


According to the Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL), despite the growth in the statewide labor force over the past three years, there has been a decline in the share of working-age, non-institutionalized Idahoans participating in the labor force. Although the labor force participation rate for Idaho rose to 62.5% in November 2023, it remains nearly two percentage points below its pre-pandemic peak of 64.4%. 

The decline can be attributed to various factors, including retirements among the Baby Boomer generation, discouraged workers not actively seeking employment, and individuals dealing with COVID-19-related health issues or caregiving responsibilities. Additionally, Idaho’s participation rate lags behind the national rate of 62.8%.

Matthew Paskash, IDOL’s labor economist, provided insights into job trends within specific industries, both those experiencing growth and contraction:

Growing industries in Idaho

Arts, entertainment and recreation

The arts, entertainment and recreation sector are witnessing a strong comeback, showing a 11.4% year-over-year growth. The resurgence is attributed to the recovery of historically low-paying service jobs, including live performers, recreational activities and community pools.

“A lot of these historically low-paying service jobs, which, because they are so customer and forward-facing, shed a lot of jobs [during the pandemic] and are now catching up,” Paskash said.

Resilient professional, scientific and technical services

Professional, scientific and technical services have demonstrated resilience, growing at 5.8% year over year. This industry, known for its ability to pivot to remote work settings, has weathered the pandemic well, maintaining steady growth and contributing to overall economic stability.

“This sector has been surprisingly not the most adversely impacted by COVID, having been easy to pivot to remote work settings,” Paskash said.

Surprising growth in the information industry

The information industry, encompassing motion picture and video, audio recording, newspapers, periodicals, television and broadcast and data storage, has also experienced a notable 5.8% year-over-year growth. 

According to Paskash, the reasons behind the growth remain a subject of further investigation, given its significance in the overall employment landscape.

Health care anticipates growth

One of the fastest-growing industries in Idaho, with a 3.6% year-over-year increase, is health care and social assistance. The surge in demand for health care workers, coupled with anticipated exit rates among existing workers due to burnout and accelerated retirements, has fueled this growth. 

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the sector remains robust, reflecting the ongoing need for health care services in an aging and growing population.

“With the pandemic somewhat in the rearview mirror, we would expect demand to still be pretty strong for health care workers,” Paskash stated.

Utilities show strong growth

The utilities sector, constituting a small portion of Idaho’s workforce, has demonstrated a robust 4.7% year-over-year growth. The increase is attributed to investments in infrastructure, reflecting positive economic trends, and addressing backlogs in essential services.

“Utilities, although a relatively small sliver of the workforce, shows surprisingly strong growth from fairly moderate to higher-wage types of jobs, reflecting perhaps the impact of infrastructure bills and spending,” Paskash added.

Contracting industries in Idaho

Stagnation in retail

While the retail trade is rebounding from the pandemic, it is not without challenges. The industry, down by a marginal -0.1%, reflects the challenge of finding workers willing to accept historically lower wages compared to other industries, according to Paskash.

The sector is at an inflection point, stabilizing after shedding jobs during the pandemic and facing the need for new business models to attract and retain workers. 

“Some retailers are just getting serious about competing for workers,” he stated.

Finance and insurance face consolidation

The finance and insurance sector contracted by close to zero, experiencing a -0.2% year-over-year change. Paskash attributed this to consolidation and mergers within banking and insurance, coupled with fears of a banking crisis, leading to a net shedding of jobs.

The industry is navigating challenges posed by interest rate movements and conservative approaches. 

“There were consolidation and mergers within banking and insurance, and some fears of a regional banking crisis, which influenced the net shedding of jobs,” he said.

Decline in administrative and support services

The administrative and support services sector, including waste management and remediation services, saw a -1.4% year-over-year decline.

With a significant workforce of 48,550 employees, the industry is facing challenges in waste management, environmental work and support services. Further investigation is needed to understand the dynamics at play, Paskash said.

Transportation and warehousing contraction

The transportation and warehousing sector saw an unexpected decline of -1.6% year over year. Despite the ongoing need for warehouse workers and drivers, the industry is facing challenges, possibly due to changes in consumer spending and supply chain adjustments.

However, the demand for jobs in this sector remains high. Paskash noted, “There’s still a strong demand for jobs in this industry,” suggesting that the contraction might be linked to unpredictable consumer spending patterns.

He also recognized the surge in demand during the pandemic.

“When people were stuck at home and shopping on platforms like Amazon, there was a significant need for warehouse workers, truck drivers and material handlers,” he said.

Despite the recent contraction, Paskash remained positive about the industry’s future, due to ongoing needs and expected growth. 

“There’s still a lot of demand in this industry, and we anticipate continued growth,” he said.


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