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Living and working in Idaho: Where did you come from, where did you go?

Drivers moving in or out of Idaho are required to trade in their old driver’s licenses when they receive licenses for the Gem State. That swap gives us an idea about who is coming (hint: Californians) and about where Idahoans are heading. Here are some of the telling statistics, and a breakdown of what they mean by the following experts:

Ethan Mansfield: Idaho Department of Labor regional economist

Peter Crabb: Professor of finance and economics at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa

Brian Greber: Adjunct economics professor at Boise State University and former vice president of technology and marketing at Weyerhaeuser

Reliance on in-migration

This made up 43 percent of Idaho’s population increase in 2014, according to the Idaho Department of Labor.

Greber: “I have serious concerns that Idaho’s ‘brand’ is changing in a way that will curtail in-migration in the future and potentially deter business relocation in the future, like we’re seeing in Indiana with the backlash on social policy. That may be what Idahoans prefer, but it will impact economic growth, jobs and wages in the future. Personally and professionally, I believe that an inclusive, inviting culture is key to our growth.”

Crabb: “Trends suggest that Idaho should continue to experience population growth, which should translate into economic growth, holding the many other factors constant.”

Treasure Valley migration

In Ada County last year, 2,806 California drivers swapped licenses, up from 2,629 in 2013. Washington, Oregon and Utah rounded out the top of the list.

In Canyon County, Californians were also the largest incoming block, followed by Washington, Oregon, Utah and Nevada.

Mansfield: “It is no surprise that California leads the way ... There are fewer people and it is much cheaper up here. Sell your tiny house in California and get a mansion here. The others make sense because of proximity.”

Greber: “A significant portion of the in-migration came from people in other states liquidating their wealth, such as real estate, in high-cost and high-value regions, and coming to Idaho in pursuit of lower cost of living and lifestyle opportunities.”

Silver tsunami ...

The number of California drivers 61 and older coming to Idaho increased from 977 in 2011 to 1,669 in 2014, a 52 percent jump.

Mansfield: “This is definitely a trend in Idaho, and it dictates the type of economic activity we see here. In the Valley, two of our fastest-growing industries are food service and retail. Arts and entertainment is up there too. That’s because retirees demand these services. If the retirees moving in love Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s, that’s the type of development we see. If they like going to see plays or sporting events, you will see that grow.”

Greber: “These were not always traditional retirees but often ‘midcareer’ individuals and families who had accumulated significant personal wealth and who created new freedom by moving to a low-cost state.”

... and a youth movement

But Californians 21 to 30 made up the largest block coming to Idaho, with 2,195 in 2014 and at least 1,734 in each of the past five years.

Crabb: “The possibility that at least some of the population growth will come from younger workers even further suggests a growing workforce with the potential for productivity gains, accelerating economic growth.”

Greber: “Low employment in the Treasure Valley and a few other pockets in Idaho is making younger folks from higher-unemployment areas look to Idaho.”

Mansfield: “From a policy perspective, it’s important to provide training for this cohort either through training programs, apprenticeships or college to give these folks an opportunity to work in an area outside of food service or retail. When companies think about moving to Idaho, one of the biggest things they look at is workforce quality. Investment in this quality is one of the best investments Idaho can make to compete going forward.”

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