Unemployment. Labor force participation rate. Employee retention. Skilled workforce.
Continuing from 2021, Idaho’s labor market was described as “tight” all year, as Idaho Department of Labor reported in April that the state’s labor force participation rate fell from pre-pandemic levels to approximately 62%, and that, on average, there were about two open jobs for every unemployed Idahoan. Every month, newly released data (such as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) underscored the pressure felt by many businesses. The most recent data available was released mid-December.
Additionally, with Idaho’s consistent unemployment rate of under 3%, the state’s workforce was a recurring topic of conversation in likely every industry statewide yearlong — how can a company attract new talent? Keep the talent it has?
Some industries began offering new incentives, such as hiring bonuses for those in construction and tuition reimbursement for state health care professionals. Government funds at times went into similar efforts, such as Boise’s incentive pay for childcare providers.
Still looking at specific industries, including construction, health care, manufacturing and technology, “accessing a talent pipeline” was a phrase used frequently, referring to natural (and sometimes not traditional) ways of recruiting workers, such as partnerships with state colleges (including Micron Technology’s recent announcement with College of Western Idaho) and collaboration on government-assisted apprenticeships.
Some higher-education institutions even adapted some of their certificate and degree programs to better align with current Idaho employer needs around a new worker’s skillset (for example, Northwest Nazarene University’s new concentration in engineering), and some local high schools have expanded their career technical courses for various industries as well in preparation of evolving workforce demands, such as two Treasure Valley schools partnering with local dentists for their dental programs and the Idaho Trucking Association bringing a simulated trucking experience to a Canyon County area high school. The state also backed a new Career Technical Education diploma for high school students, and the first graduates of the program completed their work in May.
Toward the middle of the year, in April, things started looking more positive, as panelists discussed during Idaho Business Review’s Breakfast Series event, however, looking ahead, workforce and labor are going to remain pressing issues in 2023, a situation not unique to Idaho, as the Associated Press recently reported. In short, officials with the Federal Reserve, or the Fed, are noting that “employers are having to compete for a smaller pool of workers and to offer steadily higher pay to attract them. It’s a trend that could fuel wage growth and high inflation well into 2023.”