Depending on which agency’s numbers you choose to look at, the number of government jobs in Idaho is either approaching or has already surpassed the state's biggest private sector workforce. According to numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 119,900 trade, transportation, and utilities (TTU) jobs in March, as opposed to 119,300 federal, state, and local government jobs in Idaho.
But, according to the Idaho Department of Labor, the number of government jobs has actually overtaken the TTU sector. For March, there were 119,800 government jobs, and 118,200 TTU jobs. Economic observers say such trends are concerning: private sector jobs generate the goods, services and productivity that fuel the economy. Government jobs, on the other hand, consume private sector resources without economic productivity.
Bob Fick, spokesman for the Labor Department, said there are some differences between how the state and the BLS gauge unemployment and other job statistics. “We benchmark our own numbers every quarter with information from the quarterly census, and the BLS only benchmarks once per year.” Consequently, Fick said, Idaho’s numbers are more grounded in what’s really happening in the state’s economy than the BLS numbers.
Idaho state Sen. John Andreason, R-Boise, chairman of the Commerce and Human Resources Committee, said the slight decrease in March in government jobs is due to budget cuts, and instructions by the Legislature to state agencies to reduce the size of the workforce. “We’re all sitting on the edge of our chairs, waiting for the April statistics. If they (revenues) come in where I hope they do, we’ll be able to stop the downturn in laying people off.”
He also said that with the onset of spring, there should be an upward trend in the TTU sector. “They’re coming into their busy season. Transportation projects are going to start getting busy, and they’ll be bringing people on for construction projects.”