BOISE — Idaho’s job-growth rate was sixth-highest in the nation in the first quarter of 2005, helped by demand for workers in construction, health care and call-center industries in the state’s largest cities, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Tuesday.
The state added 17,133 jobs, for growth of 3 percent, compared with the 1.7 percent national average in the three months through March, according to economists at the independent government agency that helps maintain U.S. banking stability.
The area around Coeur d’Alene led the way, adding 6.9 percent more jobs, followed closely by Idaho Falls at 6.1 percent and Boise at 4.1 percent.
Builders and professional services industries expanding or moving to Idaho have lifted its economy out of the economic doldrums that forced lawmakers in 2003 to cut spending and raise taxes. Now Idaho boasts a budget surplus — it’s expected to have more than $200 million in reserves by July 1, when the sales tax will be slashed by a penny — from 6 cents per dollar to 5 cents, state economist Mike Ferguson said.
More than 3,000 construction jobs were added in the period, the FDIC said. Even though housing costs rose 11.1 percent over a year ago, Idaho home prices haven’t risen as much as the national average of 12.5 percent — and trail far behind markets on the West and East coasts, the FDIC said.
“If you’re moving from someplace else to Idaho, housing costs are very reasonable,” said Janell Hyer, regional labor economist for Idaho Commerce & Labor in Boise. “That’s what’s continuing to drive the construction market.”
Professional services accounted for more than 4,000 of the new jobs, including about 400 new call-center positions that are being added to an EDS Corp. call center in Boise.
Even outside of population centers, Idaho’s job force is growing: in Twin Falls, for instance, recreational-vehicle maker Jayco Inc. has added 35 jobs at a new 154,000-square-foot facility and hopes to add another 45 by year’s end.
Idaho trailed only Nevada (6.7 percent), Arizona (4.1), Florida (4.1), Oregon (3.8) and Utah (3.5) in job creation as a percentage of the total workforce.
Idaho job growth was at the highest level since before the 2001 recession, said Cathy Phillips-Olsen, regional manager for FDIC’s San Francisco office of the Division of Insurance and Research. She participated in a conference call Tuesday.
“Although Boise added over half the jobs, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls each added 20 percent” of the total, Phillips-Olsen said. The Coeur d’Alene area, whose job-creation rate was fourth in the nation in 2004, is benefiting from new companies such as Buck Knives, which moved to Post Falls from San Diego earlier this year, and regional carrier Empire Airlines. In addition, food-services company Sysco Systems and a US Bank call center have also added new jobs to North Idaho.
As a result, “we’ve seen a substantial reduction of unemployment,” said Jonathan Coe, president of the Coeur d’Alene Area Chamber of Commerce. Unemployment in Kootenai County has dropped to 4.2 percent, from 5.6 percent a year ago.
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