TWIN FALLS — Women in Idaho working full-time jobs generally earn 76.5 percent as much as men, according to a new study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2016, Idaho women working full-time jobs reported median weekly earnings of $645. Men’s weekly earnings were $843.
And it may seem the gap between men’s and women’s salaries is widening: Just three years ago, Idaho women were making more than 85 percent of what men made.
The study didn’t compare job-to-job, but measured wage differences based on a survey of 60,000 households nationwide.
Economists say the difference in wages between men and women could reflect the differences in the kinds of industries that employ predominantly women versus those that employ predominantly men.
“Retail is an area where women are more predominant, and it’s lower paying,” Bureau of Labor Statistics economist Todd Johnson said.
According to the Idaho Department of Labor, in 2016 women accounted for about 60 percent of the retail workforce in Twin Falls County and Idaho as a whole.
Women’s wages may also be lower if they work in education — a field in which 69 percent of Twin Falls County workers were women.
And while women hold a significant percentage of hospital jobs — 75 percent of them statewide — oftentimes they are working in the lower-paying positions, such as nursing, Johnson said.
In food processing, where more than 1,900 Twin Falls County workers were employed in 2016, women make up only 32 percent of the workforce. An increase in these higher-paying jobs may not be as likely to be helping women. But women make up a growing percentage of food processing workers. In 2012, only 27.8 percent were women.
Idaho Department of Labor Regional Economist Jan Roeser said sometimes, traditional gender roles can affect whether a woman can attend college or how long it takes.
“The caretaker role is one that really impacts women,” she said.
But the rate of women enrolling in college is growing, Roeser said.
“They’re seeing that’s really needed to get ahead,” she said.
Since 1998, Idaho women have typically made between 71 percent and 86 percent of what men made. What’s important to keep in mind is the fluctuations between years is still statistically close, Johnson said.
“In percentage terms, it’s really not as drastic as it might immediately appear,” he said.
And the apparent decrease in women’s earnings compared to men’s in Idaho may be even less significant considering the small sample size.
Women’s weekly earnings in Idaho ranked 49th among the 50 states in 2016; and men’s weekly wages ranked 40th.