Bringing the Economy Home

Hoping for An Economic Turnaround? Five Idaho Industries to Watch

These five industries, like construction and high-tech, hardly cover Idaho’s entire economy, but they have acted as some of the most volatile and crucial economic indicators over the last decade.  State economists say Idaho’s economic turnaround will be gradual, albeit it’s headed in the right direction.

Keith Brofsky / Getty Images

Business services are expected to make a "disproportionately positive impact" on employment

Services & Trade: The services industry includes everything from accountants and lawyers to roofers and painters.  This sector of Idaho’s economy experienced declines in 2009 and 2010 but is now expected to be one of Idaho’s growth engines over the next four years. That’s according to the 2011 Idaho Economic Forecast which is published by the Division of Financial Management.  The retail and wholesale trade part of this sector is also expected to grow.  According to the report, Idaho’s trade sector shed more than 10,500 jobs in retail and wholesale trade between 2007 and 2010.

“This sector’s return to growth is especially important because it is the largest private employer in the state.” – Derek E. Santos, Economist, Idaho Division of Financial Management

Manufacturing: July stats from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show manufacturing makes up almost nine percent of Idaho’s economy (trade, transportation and utilities is the largest sector at more than 20 percent).  State forecasters say manufacturing will be a “mixed bag” but they predict growth starting this year. The director of the College of Business and Economics at Boise State University, Brian Greber, says one of the first things to pick up out of a recession are those companies that make things.

“As business investment slows, there is a significant step down in companies that supply infrastructure.” – Brian Greber, Director, College of Business and Economics.

High Tech: It’s been a volatile industry for the Gem State due in large part to the high-tech implosion in 2002.  Computers and electronics were Idaho’s largest manufacturing employer when it peaked at 19,700 jobs in 2001 but has since lost jobs, in some cases by double-digits, in every year since.  Now, state economists are predicting the sector will remain stable in the next four years.

U.S. Department of Commerce/JP Morgan ChaseSizing Up Idaho’s Economy

Natural Resources: This sector includes traditional resources like mining and timber plus emerging resources like solar, wind and geothermal energy.  Idaho’s Division of Financial Management forecasts growth in logging and wood products as the demand for new housing creeps forward in the next four years.

“Mining is benefiting from high metal prices. Wood products employment will grow as demand recovers with the housing sector.” – Derek E. Santos, Director, DFM

Paul Bradbury / Getty ImagesConstruction workers on site

Construction: Idaho’s construction industry lost 10,000 jobs from 2008 to 2009 according to the state Department of Labor.  State and private economists agree recovery in the construction industry will be slow.  The Division of Financial Management predicts the industry will lose another 1,300 jobs by the end of 2011.  It’s likely the state won’t be able to measure growth here until 2014.

“Despite its anticipated growth, construction employment comes nowhere close to regaining its previous peak.  Instead, there are about as many jobs (forecast) in 2014 as there were in 2009.” – Santos


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