How A Government Shutdown Could Impact Idaho

Sep 30, 2013

Boise's McClure Federal Building
Credit id.uscourts.gov

It looks like the federal government will shut down Tuesday since Congress hasn’t passed a spending bill.

It’s hard to gauge how that might impact Idaho, but the federal government is the second largest employer here, after the state itself.

About 11,750 Idahoans get paychecks from Uncle Sam and those checks total about $800 million a year. That breaks down to more than $2 million per day flowing into Idaho. But we don’t know how much of that will stop flowing for each day of a government shutdown.

If a shutdown happens, employees labeled ‘non-essential’ will be furloughed until Congress can find a solution. But each federal agency will decide who will be furloughed and what services will be suspended.

Take one agency, the Bureau of Land Management which employs about 1,000 people in Idaho. If there’s a government shutdown everyone not involved with law enforcement and firefighting will be furloughed. BLM spokesman Randi Eardley says campgrounds, trails and visitors services will close. Post-wildfire and other land restoration projects will also be suspended. That includes a long term project to conserve sage grouse habitat.  

Eardley says they are working to avoid having the sage grouse listed as an endangered species. He doesn’t think a government shutdown would interfere with the deadline on that because eventually Congress will pass a spending bill.

But how long a shutdown lasts matters. If it goes on long enough those furloughed federal employees could collect unemployment insurance benefits.

Idaho’s Department of Labor doesn’t know how a shutdown would impact Idaho, there are too many variables. But the department does have a formula to calculate how many state, local government and private jobs are tied to the federal jobs. Chief Research Officer Bob Uhlenkott writes in an e-mail; “The overall jobs multiplier is quite high at 4.27.  This means one federal job correlates to three other jobs to be impacted."

Hypothetically, he continues, if all federal jobs in the state were eliminated 50,224 total Idaho jobs would be lost.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio