Idaho shifting to a Baby Boomer economy

adutton@idahostatesman.comMay 1, 2014 

An aging population that isn't being replaced by young people is slowly, steadily chipping away at Idaho's workforce.

That's according to the Idaho Department of Labor, which has noted in recent unemployment-rate press releases a decline in workforce "participation" because of the growth of retirees.

"It's been happening for the last six or eight years," Bob Uhlenkott, chief research officer for the department, said in an interview last month. "Even during the midst of the Great Recession, our research shop has been lamenting that the real challenge in the next decade is going to be the workforce shortage."

In addition to a smaller workforce, the shift affects the types of jobs available. Retirees are more likely to spend money on services, like landscaping, Uhlenkott said.

The gap between working-age and golden-years Idahoans will continue to narrow, according to a forecast by EMSI, an economic modeling firm based in Moscow.

Source: EMSI forecast provided by the Idaho Department of Labor

The phenomenon isn't unique to Idaho, according to a March report by the department. Civilian workforce participation rates are falling nationally and in most of Idaho's neighboring states. (An exception is Utah, where the rate is growing.)

But Idaho is "starting to go through this really fast," as more retirement-age people move into the state looking for a high quality of life at a lower cost, Uhlenkott said.

What is the effect of this trend? The former NPR StateImpact Idaho project delved into that last year as part of its Bottom Rung series. StateImpact reported that the shift leads to more low-wage jobs.

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, @IDS_Audrey

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