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Idaho is among the nation's job growth leaders, but it's not all rosy

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Analysts sang the praises of Idaho’s economic growth over the past year to a group of state lawmakers Thursday, though the state does have some challenges.

Let’s start with the good: Idaho led the nation in job growth coming out of the pandemic, according to the state department of labor. November’s jobless rate stood at 2.6% compared to 4.2% nationwide.

It was the first state to return to pre-pandemic job levels, officials said.

Craig Shaul tracks employment numbers for the Idaho Department of Labor.

He said there’s not much evidence that these numbers are artificially inflated by people refusing to work and collecting unemployment instead.

Comparing the third quarter of 2019 to the third quarter of 2021 in the U.S., 4.8 million people stopped working. Nearly 75% of those people simply retired – whether it was early or as planned.

“The labor force reduction in participation rate is really kind of being driven more by the early retirements, and so therefore, we’re going to be looking at kind of a tighter labor force from here on out,” Shaul said.

Another big factor in the drop in the labor pool, he said, are those who have to stay home to take care of children or other family members. Nearly every demographic had decreased participation in the workforce.

“The only demographic that is above zero is males with no children,” Shaul said.

He didn’t share any recent data on wages, since it lags behind by a year or two. But Idaho has consistently ranked well below the national average.

Shaul said he expects lower earnings and skyrocketing home prices will temper the state’s job growth in the future.

The hospitality and health care sectors are expected to be the hottest industries looking ahead.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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