Idaho tops list of fastest-growing states

1513682676501-1By Kendra Evensen, kevensen@journalnet.com 

Idaho’s population has increased 2.2 percent in the last year, making it the fastest growing state in the nation, according to new population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Officials say there are nearly 37,000 more people living in the Gem State, bringing Idaho’s total population to more than 1.7 million. Although they weren’t able to release any information about where that growth is occurring on Wednesday, they said they are planning to release more detailed data in March.

Many were excited to learn about the growth taking place in the state on Wednesday.

“This is great news for Idaho,” said Esther Eke, a regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor. “According to the census, this growth was largely driven by domestic migration meaning that people are increasingly deciding to choose Idaho.”

Domestic migration also drove a 2 percent population increase in Nevada, which was ranked second for growth. Utah, which went up 1.9 percent, came in third. Demographer Peter Borsella with the U.S. Census Bureau said that state’s growth was largely due to a high number of births.

Borsella noted that states in the South and West are also continuing to draw more people primarily through domestic migration.

In 2017, 38 percent of the nation’s population lived in the South and 23.8 percent lived in the West, according to a news release.

Eke believes more people are moving out West for a variety of reasons, including high-tech jobs, open spaces and a better quality of life. And she says Idaho is likely drawing more residents for similar reasons.

Idaho had an unemployment rate of only 2.9 percent — one of the lowest in the nation — in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Our state has consistently had strong job growth numbers over the past few years and our state regulations are very business friendly,” Eke said. “As Idaho’s technology industry continues to expand in the Boise Valley and other parts of the state, we can expect to see more people coming in over the years.”

Jan Rogers, CEO of Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho (REDI), agrees.

She said state, regional and local leaders have created a business-friendly environment that has helped to draw several exciting projects to Idaho in recent years.

She says economic development isn’t just about incentives anymore; the ease and speed of doing business is also important, and Idaho is developing a great track record for that.

In addition, Rogers says there’s a strong talent pipeline here that can also help attract new businesses, which in turn provides more job opportunities for more residents.

“Eastern Idaho is blessed with two major universities, a community college and University Place,” she said, adding that more than 30,000 students are registering for classes between Idaho State University and Brigham Young University-Idaho alone.

Those students are getting the training they need for future jobs. And REDI is also working to attract and retain even more talent for Eastern Idaho, Rogers said.

“Personally, I think the sun, moon and the stars are aligning for Idaho,” she said. “I think that’s reflected in our new achievement of leading the nation. We’re really in a good place.”