How does Idaho stack up against other states?

For those of us who live here, Idaho is a great place – but how does it compare to other states?

Idaho has been the fastest growing U.S. state in terms of population growth.  But, I have had a chance to review four different national comparisons on employment, wages, vaccinations and crime. The overall picture is mixed.

Employment. Idaho’s economy has been growing by leaps and bounds the past few years.  It has paid off in strong job growth. According to Idaho’s Department of Labor, Idaho’s total nonfarm jobs are up 3.1% in the last year (21,800 job in total) -- the second fastest growth rate in the nation.

Idaho’s overall employment picture is slightly less rosy. In May of 2018, Idaho was ranked 10th in the nation for its unemployment rate -- at 2.9%.  Idaho’s rate beats our neighboring states: Utah (3.0%), Wyoming (3.7%), Montana (3.9%), Oregon (4.1%), Washington (4.7%) and Nevada (4.8%).

Wages. Wages in Idaho have historically trailed the rest of the country. We are starting to see some wage growth but how do we compare to our neighbors and other U.S. states?  Overall, not well.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles and releases data on “real wages”, basically factoring in purchasing power by removing the impact of inflation.  Between 2007 (before the recession) and 2016, Idaho wages in real terms have actually fallen by 1.2%.  That does not compare well to our neighbors. In contrast, Utah is up 3.9%.  Montana’s wages rose 6.1% while Wyoming’s jumped 9.7%.  Our neighbors to the west, Washington and Oregon, are up 3.7% and 2.8% respectively.

Our two leading candidates for governor and those running for the Idaho Legislature need to provide a compelling vision of how Idaho boosts its wage growth.

Vaccinations. A recently released report in PLOS Medicine identified the top 10 U.S. counties for children whose parents had opted out of childhood vaccinations for non-medical reasons.

Here’s the list and it is embarrassing:

County, State

Rate of Non-medical Exemptions

Camas, Idaho


Bonner, Idaho


Valley, Idaho


Custer, Idaho


Idaho, Idaho


Bayfield, Wisconsin


Boise, Idaho


Kootenai, Idaho


Boundary, Idaho


Morgan, Utah


Idaho has eight of the top 10 counties where parents choose not to vaccine their kids.  That is embarrassing – and dangerous.  The report states that a child without the measles vaccine is 35 times more likely to contract the disease.  Idaho has recently had outbreaks of whooping cough, a highly preventable illness deadly to small children.

Is it time for the Idaho Legislature to tighten up the exemption process?

Crime. U.S. News has ranked the states in terms of public safety, by analyzing both violent crimes and property crimes.

The results for Idaho were stellar, the 5th best in the country and significantly better than any of our neighbors. Idaho’s policymakers and public safety officers all deserve a pat on the back.

This reinforces the case for building a second prison --- at a cost of $500 million. Obviously, Idaho current mix of punishments and policing activities are effective. But, a recent task force recommended the new prison to handle current and future offenders.

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (www.MaynesTaggart.com).  He has an extensive background in politics and public policy. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..