The heady days of 2015 and 2016, where Idaho frequently led the nation with double-digit growth in construction jobs, seems to have tempered in 2017.
The number of construction jobs in Idaho did reach a nine-year high at 44,500 in February, but the sector has been shedding jobs each month since then and hit 42,900 in May, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
The May job count is still 3.9 percent higher than in May 2016. But Idaho ranked only No. 21 among the states in year-to-year job increases in May after routinely sitting at No. 1, 2 or 3 through much of 2015 and 2016. In those years, year-to-year increases were often between 10 and 14.8 percent, according to AGC statistics.
“Last year we were out of control. That’s not really a sustainable pace,” said Todd Bloom, owner of B&B Steel Erectors, a Boise general contractor.
The spring slip in construction jobs can be attributed to the completion of several large-scale projects.
City Center Plaza, the J.R. Simplot Co. corporate headquarters, Hyatt Place and Inn at 500 Capitol construction have all wrapped up in downtown Boise as have three hotels in Nampa and Meridian. New hospitals in Nampa and Meridian are in their final stages of construction. Saint Alphonsus Health Systems has scaled back from 300 to 45 construction workers since February, though the St. Luke’s Nampa work site has ramped up a touch from 255 to 290 workers since February.
Idaho has hovered between 39,000 and 44,500 construction jobs since November 2015 after sitting at 33,000 to 35,000 for most of 2013 and 2014. Idaho reached its highest number of construction workers in June 2006 at 53,300, according to AGC statistics.
Bloom believes Idaho can reach those numbers again – but at a more gradual growth rate. He thinks there will be a shift from large buildings.
“A lot of it is going to be infrastructure projects,” Bloom said. “Our infrastructure is in need of dire help. It has to be a coordinated effort between government policy and private investment. The cities and counties have to do a better job at urban planning.”