Idaho’s economic and population growth have been well-documented with recent coverage by big name outlets such as the WSJ and NY Times. Attention is typically focused on our bigger-name neighbors to north and south (e.g. Coeur d’Alene, Boise, etc.). Meanwhile, Moscow, Idaho’s 13th biggest city, has quietly been sowing the seeds of its own economic renaissance. (Please note, Moscow is the biggest city within Latah County. Federal statistics are typically based on counties rather than cities, so most of this post is based on data for Latah County).
In 2019, Latah County’s GDP surpassed $1.5 billion. The 5.2% average annual growth rate over the past five years places Latah County in the top 20th percentile of all counties in the United States. In terms of employment, Latah County has seen net growth in jobs and earnings each of the past five years.
What’s more interesting is the type of jobs that have flourished in the Moscow region. Historically, Moscow has been known for government and retail. Government jobs are mostly owing to the University of Idaho, a state land-grant institution, and retail owing to a strong downtown and numerous shopping centers that attract traffic both from Idaho and neighboring Pullman, Washington.
Despite a strong downward trend in these industries, Latah County has developed more high-wage, knowledge-based jobs in sectors such as Healthcare and Professional, Scientific & Technical Services. Accounting for these two sectors alone, Latah County generated 18% growth over the past five years, placing in the top ten of all counties in Idaho. This ranking is in league with well-known metro areas such as Boise and Coeur d’Alene, and ranks above other secondary cities that are frequently more touted than Moscow, including Twin Falls and Pocatello.
When viewed nationally, Latah County is among a handful of about 500 counties that saw a simultaneous significant decrease in government employment and a significant increase in these knowledge-based jobs. For context, that is less than 20% of the counties in the United States.
In other words, a city that has long been known as a college town, rife with liberal professors, dive bars, and local shops selling huckleberry-themed bric-à-brac is transforming into a diversified, private-sector-led economy.
Points Consulting is a Moscow, Idaho-based boutique consulting firm that focuses on providing insights and economic data at the intersection of public and private investment. We work with a wide variety of government and private sector clients with an equally wide variety of political views. We heartily value the lively free exchange of ideas. Read more about us and our projects here.