BOISE -- Idaho is going through a very significant population shift, according to data collected and researched by KTVB. It's a change that's alarming some jobs experts.

Using drivers license and state-issued identification card data provided by the Idaho Department of Transportation, KTVB examined trends. License data is the most available way to look at general demographics in Idaho. Since everyone must hand over his or her card when moving to a new state, general records can give a good picture of adults moving in, and moving out.


After examining the numbers, it was clear 2012 was a very strange year: The number of people who moved away from Idaho was more than we've seen in over a decade. The same population numbers that caught our attention has the Department of Labor taking notice.

That's the first time we've had an outmigration from the 80s, Bob Fick, Idaho Dept. of Labor, said. Will we have the labor force to man a recovery?

States shaded dark blue are the common destinations for Idahoan's outmigrating

The problem, says Fick, is not just outmigration, it's who's leaving and who's replacing them.

We have an influx greater than it has been in the past of older people, Fick said. People who are at the end of their working lives or retired. Compounding that, which is something we haven't had in the past, is this exodus of younger workers.

In the last decade, 2012 stands out with huge drop in workers in their 20s and a new rise in those above 60-years-old. That new trend, which is expected by many to continue, is what some experts have named the Silver Tsunami. Fick says they're already seeing that trend causing a shift in jobs and pay.

States shaded dark red represent the origin of workers migrating to Idaho

Older people are service consumers. Younger people tend to be goods consumers, Fick said. So what you have is more service jobs to meet the demand of a growing older population. The effect of this is you have lower paying jobs replacing higher paying jobs.

On average, the state Department of Labor says service jobs pay around $10,000 a year less than goods jobs.


Around the time of the stock market crash in the 80s, the Department of Labor says Idaho had its first significant population change. Mining and logging gave way to manufacturing, and it changed the picture of people in the Gem State.

This current shift from manufacturing jobs (such as construction and factory) to service jobs (such as retail, restaurants and healthcare) is now considered by the Department to be the second big change. While it is significant, some business experts say the shift can be embraced.

I think we're in pretty good shape. We're in that transitional period. They call it that creative destruction thing where a lot of the jobs we've been used to in the past aren't around anymore and aren't going to come back, said Michael Ballantyne, Managing Partner at Thorton, Oliver, Keller.

Ballantyne's company deals with millions of square feet in commercial real estate around the Treasure Valley, including big projects on Eagle Road and Costco stores. The company also works to bring new business to town. He says a workforce can be make or break for companies choosing Idaho, and with a shift in population and demands, Idaho will need to adapt to keep enticing companies.


We're very competitive on salaries and benefits. So when they look in Boise, they say, this is great. These are the salaries we need to be at, that type of thing, Ballantyne said. The challenge we have sometimes is numbers. For instance, computer scientists. Having enough computer scientists, things like that.

Recent Idaho Dept. of Labor data shows a sharp decrease in younger workers

Ballantyne also says Idaho sometimes has fewer incentives to offer businesses than other surrounding states may be offering.

As the population trends are projected to continue, with even more older people coming in, the Department of Labor says Idaho business leaders and policy makers need to move with the change.

The indications that we're getting from this initial information are such that people should -- probably people in positions to make decisions -- probably should start considering what the ramifications are of a shift like the one we're seeing, Fick said.

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