While regional unemployment is routinely below the state and national averages, the regional poverty rate is above the state and national averages with the median household income lagging. This underscores the concern of underemployment and the need for additional good-paying, benefited positions within the region. Rapid population growth coupled with raising construction costs has caused a perfect storm in the Idaho housing market, particularly for affordable and workforce housing. Low inventory and vacancy rates have driven average home prices out of reach for the average worker. The Idaho Press reported on January 6, 2022, that since 2015, housing prices have increase by more than 150%. In comparison, worker income only grew between 25% and 32% for the same time period.xi The need for broad community strategies to balance the economic pressures is of utmost importance.
The region continues to struggle with overall education attainment. At a regional level, 84.10% of those 25 and older have earned at least a high school diploma, compared to Idaho’s 91.10%. The region also trails the state in attainment of a bachelor’s or graduate degree. The region’s heavy agricultural concentration initially drove the lower-skilled labor pool. Agriculture’s continuing influence and the rise in value-added food processing jobs have enabled workers in the region to make a decent living without attaining a bachelor’s degree. Today, local companies are desperately searching for skilled workers capable of tackling advanced food science and the technical demands of the computer-manufacturing environment.
Photo Above: Construction of a Broadband tower in Bliss courtesy of White Cloud Communications. Photo Below: The Camas Prairie at sunset by Mary Thompson