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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Report: Idaho workers’ earnings led nation in ’17

Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho – Idaho led the nation last year in workers’ earnings growth, according to a recent report.

But Idaho’s ranking as having the biggest workers’ pay increase in the nation isn’t really all that impressive, given that Idaho workers still make well below their counterparts in every neighboring state, the Idaho Statesman reported last week.

Wages and salaries earned by Idaho workers Idaho workers increased 5.3 percent last year, the fastest rate in the nation, according to a report by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.

But the problem is the statistics released measure by overall earnings, not earnings per worker, the Statesman said. And because Idaho added 24,880 jobs in 2017, wages paid to those workers bulked up the earnings growth.

The average Idaho worker earned $778 per week in the third quarter of 2017, the latest for which data is available. That’s $40,456 last year in wages and salaries. An Idaho worker still makes less than the average worker in every bordering state.

Washington state workers make the most, $1,208, followed by Oregon at $969, Nevada at $914, Wyoming at $868 and Montana at $793.

The average Idaho worker earned $762 per week in 2016. The increase to the third-quarter 2017 amount was barely 1 percent. The increase a year earlier was 2 percent.

Idaho is one of 15 states that follows the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Neighboring Oregon has a minimum wage of $10.75. Washington’s is $11.50. Montana workers earn at least $8.30.

Nevada requires $1 above the federal minimum for employees who aren’t provided health insurance. Jan Roeser, a regional labor economist with the Idaho Department of Labor, said that is one reason Idaho workers still earn so little.

Roeser said another reason for Idaho lagging the other states that Idaho does not have the natural gas and shale deposits that bring high-paying jobs to Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota.

The number of jobs in Idaho has increased by 91,000 since 2013 and now totals 721,379. That’s 38th in the nation. Idaho’s total population ranks 39th.