Bringing the Economy Home

Bottom Rung: The Workforce Shift That’s Costing Idaho Good-Paying Jobs

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

A Steelhead Construction worker measures siding for a new home west of Boise.

Not long ago, you could hear the buzz of power saws all over the Treasure Valley. It was punctuated by the steady rhythm of hammers and nail guns. More than 10,000 homes went up in Ada and Canyon counties in the two years before the recession hit. Then, the sound stopped.

“’08 and ’09 were really hard,” says Aaron Wright of Steelhead Construction. He founded the siding and remodeling company as Idaho’s housing boom took hold. At the peak, Wright employed more than 30 people. When the market crashed, he scaled back to three.

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Bottom Rung: Gov. Otter Touts Idaho’s Low Wages To Attract Gun Companies

Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

For the last two years, Gov. Otter has pushed for lower business taxes, a state-based health insurance exchange, and hiring tax credits.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is using Idaho’s low wages as a selling point. In a letter sent to out-of-state gun manufacturers last month to encourage them to relocate to Idaho, Otter touts the comparatively low cost of labor here.

This week we’re reporting on wages in Idaho. The governor portrays as an asset the wage trends we’ve been reporting on. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show Idaho has the largest percentage of minimum wage workers in the country; Idaho’s average per capita personal income is second from the bottom. Mississippi is the only state where personal income is less.

In the letter sent to 79 gun and ammunition makers in 28 states, the governor highlights Idaho’s low wages as a way for those companies to save money.

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Bottom Rung: Migration By The Numbers

The latest driver’s license data suggests more 20-somethings are leaving Idaho than ever before. The net loss of Idahoans aged 21-30 last year was 149. The data show 11,530 young people moved to Idaho from other states in 2012, while 11,679 left.

Source: Idaho Department of Labor | Idaho Department of Transportation

The Idaho Department of Labor is keeping an eye on this unsettling trend; young people are leaving the state in search of higher-paying jobs while retirees from out-of-state are moving in faster than ever. Continue Reading

Bottom Rung: Why An Influx Of Retirees To Idaho Is Creating More Low-Wage Jobs

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact

Jordyn Skinner is a freshman at Boise State University. She also works part-time at Franco's Pizzeria.

There’s a brand new pizza joint in southeast Boise. It’s nestled in a mini-strip mall with a gas station, dry cleaner and hair salon.

On a recent Friday evening, Franco’s Pizzeria was just starting to pick up. It’s a tiny place. The cash register is only a few steps away from the industrial pizza ovens. There are a handful of tables and stools inside for someone who just wants a quick slice.

Two employees behind the register take turns answering the phone and taking orders. Two other workers are busy hand-tossing pizza dough, spreading sauce on the crust and layering the New York-style pies with toppings.

Save for the owners, everyone at Franco’s earns $7.50 an hour, that’s a quarter above minimum wageContinue Reading

Idaho Tax Collections Come In Well Above April Forecast

In the largest unexpected increase of the fiscal year, Idaho state tax collections were up 13.2 percent above projections in April.

Division of Financial Management / State of Idaho

The Division of Financial Management reports tax collections totaled $483.9 million during the largest tax-collecting month of the year. DFM forecast April collections wouldn’t exceed $427.4 million. Continue Reading

Idaho Leaders Renew Their Pitch To Gun Makers

Emilie Ritter Saunders | Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Click above for an interactive map of all gun and ammunition manufacturers in Idaho.

Idaho leaders are renewing their push to draw gun and ammunition makers to the Gem State.

Yesterday, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter declared May “2nd Amendment Protection Month.” And as new gun control laws go into effect in a handful of states, the Idaho Commerce Department says it’s “well-poised” to lure gun and ammunition companies to Idaho.

According to our August 2012 analysis, Idaho has at least 180 gun and ammunition manufacturers. Continue Reading

Bottom Rung: Two Idaho Workers Talk About Life On Low Wages

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

John was an IT director 10 years ago. Now he spends his workdays behind the register of a Boise store.

Wages are lower in Idaho than in nearly ever other state. That’s often chalked up to Idaho’s rural nature and low cost of living. But recently, the state has lost ground.

A federal Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that Idaho has the largest share of workers earning minimum wage in the country. And that share — 7.7 percent — has grown rapidly.

All this week, we’ll explain the trends that are playing out at the bottom of Idaho’s wage scale. Today, we’re asking: What is it like to earn minimum wage or close to it in Idaho?  Continue Reading

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