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Idaho Economic Outlook: Grow More “Living Wage” Jobs

October 10, 2007

Boise, ID – Jobs in Idaho are abundant, but jobs that pay enough to cover basic expenses are hard to find, according to a new report. Research from the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations also examines what types of jobs are available and, for most families, work that pays enough is rare. Study author Gerald Smith says health care is the biggest driver in Idaho's cost-of-living increases.

"This is one of the things that employers are having to do as they see health care costs go up. It means the employees have higher co-pays, and they're shifting more of the premiums to the employees."

Smith says health care costs have gone up 35 percent for Idahoans who are covered through work, and costs are even higher for those who have no coverage, or buy private insurance. The report calculates the "living wage" for an average family of four at about $62,000 a year.

Smith says rising housing costs are another factor that has bumped up the cost of living in Idaho. He examined rental prices and says a closer look at home owners would likely show those families need to earn even more to make ends meet.

"If you look at the actual cost of housing for buying houses, I think we'd have an even greater disparity, we've obviously seen house prices go up."

Smith suggests two ways of improving pay: providing incentives to companies that create "living wage" jobs, and setting a higher minimum wage for Idaho workers.

Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - ID