Today is my last at StateImpact Idaho. After better than four years spent reporting in the West, next month I’ll make good on a longtime goal. I’ll take a couple of months away from reporting for intensive Spanish study in Central America, something that will benefit my work in the future.
There are many things I’ve valued about this job. I’m grateful to have met fascinating people with stories to tell in towns and communities all over this state, from Laclede to Council to American Falls. (I’ve reported four feature stories from that one little town of 4,500 since StateImpact Idaho launched in September 2011!) Continue Reading →
Many readers and listeners have weighed in, in some cases sending their own stories. For example, Monday’s feature focused in part on a McDonald’s franchise that’s just across the Idaho border, in Washington, where the minimum wage is considerably higher than Idaho’s, at $9.19 per hour. Continue Reading →
The same data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also show Idaho has more minimum-wage earners, in raw numbers, than 18 other states. Many of those states have fewer people living in them, but six of the states have larger populations.
Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia all have more people than Idaho, but fewer people making minimum wage or less.
To talk more about the trend, we recently sat down with economist and director of the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy Mike Ferguson. We also planned to speak with Idaho Department of Commerce director Jeff Sayer, but Sayer canceled our conversation indefinitely.
The data doesn’t tell us who these workers are, or where they live. We don’t know, for example, if the majority of those 31,000 minimum wage earners are teenagers working a part-time job, or middle-aged parents trying to support a family.
But back in February, President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union Address that he wants to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour. Since then, acting Labor Department Secretary Seth Harris has been campaigning to boost support for the idea.
Harris says raising the minimum wage will directly help workers earning it, but will also benefit the entire economy.
Tim Skubitz stands in front of his McDonalds in Newport, Washington. It's right across the street from Oldtown, Idaho.
The border between Washington and Idaho is like a petri dish for what the minimum wage does to the economy. That’s where two extremes meet. Idaho has the federal minimum wage: $7.25 an hour. Meanwhile, Washington’s is nearly $2 more.
At $9.19, Washington has the highest minimum wage in the nation. You might expect that wage gap to send Washington border businesses fleeing over to Idaho. But that’s not what’s happening.
Idahoans like Ron Mendive pride themselves on having a business-friendly state. The Republican state representative from Coeur d’Alene shares the view of many about the minimum wage. Continue Reading →
Call center jobs have boomed in Idaho. The industry has added thousands of jobs in the state over the last decade. EMSI, a Moscow, Idaho-based company that analyzes employment and economic data, projects that growth will continue in the near-term.
Bob Lokken, CEO of WhiteCloud Analytics, in his downtown Boise office
Bob Lokken, CEO of Boise-based WhiteCloud Analytics, is three years into building his new company. It designs software for health care professionals with the aim of allowing doctors and others to interrogate vast amounts of health care data. Lokken founded it after his previous company, ProClarity Corporation, was bought by Microsoft.
Recently, he showed me around the downtown office where software developers work intently behind large computer screens. I wasn’t there to talk about better health outcomes through guided data analysis; I was there to talk about Idaho’s workforce.
This week, StateImpact Idaho is reporting on low-wage work through its series “Bottom Rung.”Retired University of Idaho economist Stephen Cooke offers a blunt assessment of Idaho’s shifting employment picture. He believes the state is on a path toward a growing number of low-skilled, low-wage jobs. Continue Reading →
Construction employment was the starting point for the broadcast story that aired this morning. The construction industry suffered especially steep losses in the recession. In Idaho, the number of construction workers remains more than 40 percent below its 2007 peak, even as local home prices regain lost ground and new home building picks up.