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Department of Labor predicts 1.4 percent annual job growth through 2026

A pair of FedEx trailers. After STEM occupations, transportation and warehousing has the highest projected growth rate at 3.6 percent through 2026, according to the Idaho Department of Labor. File photo.

New projections from the Idaho Department of Labor forecast that the state will add more than 105,000 jobs by 2026, bringing total statewide employment to approximately 841,000. In 2016, statewide employment was 735,000. This new projection indicates expected growth of 14.4 percent for the 10-year period from 2016 to 2026, for an annual growth rate of 1.4 percent.

“The results of the latest Idaho DOL projections are both logical and consistent with the last two iterations of these reports (these 10-year forecasts are done every two years),” said Lauren Butler, a research analyst with ECONorthwest, a Boise-based economic analysis firm.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) occupations are projected to grow faster than the rest of the labor market as a whole, at 17 percent, the Department of Labor said. Within STEM fields, health occupations lead the way with a projected growth rate of 23.6 percent. STEM occupations are projected to grow by 14,000 new jobs through 2026, accounting for 14 percent of all new jobs in Idaho.

photo of lauren butler

Lauren Butler

“The STEM numbers are promising, but it is important to recognize that these projections are based upon current and expected economic conditions, so considerable uncertainty surrounds them,” Butler said. “In 2010, for example, when Idaho’s unemployment rate was 9.0 percent, few would have predicted that, in less than 10 years, it would fall most recently to 2.9 percent.”

Diverse job growth in Idaho will create openings for workers with a wide variety of educational backgrounds. In 2026, while 38 percent of jobs in Idaho will require a high school diploma or less, 32 percent will require some college but less than a four-year degree, such as an associate degree or occupational certification, the Department of Labor said. Twenty percent of Idaho’s jobs will require a bachelor’s degree, while 10 percent will require a master’s degree or higher.

“Idaho needs a well-educated workforce to meet employers’ needs in a knowledge-based economy,” Butler said. “Otherwise, employers will choose to fill these roles in ways that will be less beneficial for our residents—by importing skilled workers from other locales or, even worse, leaving Idaho.”

Beyond STEM, employment growth is projected in a wide swathe of industries. For example, service producing industries are expected to grow at 1.4 percent annually, adding 83,000 new jobs through 2026 and accounting for the bulk of Idaho’s employment growth, the Department of Labor said. Transportation and warehousing has the highest projected growth rate at 3.6 percent, followed by real estate and rental leasing services at 2.4 percent, and health care and social assistance at 2.1 percent.

Goods-producing industries are projected to grow slightly slower, at 1.2 percent annually, adding 16,000 jobs by 2026, the Department of Labor said. Construction is projected to grow at 1.7 percent annually, which is the highest projected growth rate among goods-producing industries.

Idaho’s expanding labor market is expected to create substantial needs in a variety of occupations. While economic growth is projected to create 105,000 new positions, the routine churn and turnover of the labor market is expected to create approximately 809,000 openings through 2026. This means that roughly 913,000 job openings will be created in Idaho over 10 years, the Department of Labor said. The largest numbers of job openings are expected to occur in occupations with many positions and relatively high turnover rates. Office and administrative support occupations lead the way, with 134,000 projected openings through 2026, followed by food preparation and serving occupations with 114,000 openings, and sales and related occupations with 109,000 openings.

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