Fabri-Kal

Pulp Forming Work Group Leader Corey Tipton swaps out the molds before starting line four Jan. 26 at Fabri-Kal in Burley.

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS FILE

New figures out from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show incredible wage growth for most Magic Valley counties, where businesses are having to compete for workers by offering more money and better benefits.

The Magic Valley hasn’t seen an economy this beneficial to workers in years, especially skilled workers like welders, machine operators and food-science technicians. But even lower-skill positions come with more money these days.

Overall wages soared 8.7 percent in Cassia County, 7.7 percent in Minidoka County, and 6.5 percent in Twin Falls County in the first quarter of 2017.

Average weekly pay is still below the Idaho average and national average for all eight counties in south-central Idaho, but overall Magic Valley wage growth is outpacing the national average. That means we’re catching up, fast.

Weekly take-home pay in Twin Falls County is $658. The Idaho average is $775. The national average is $1,111.

Economists don’t expect the wage growth to slow anytime soon. Businesses in the Magic Valley continue to add new jobs amid historic low unemployment. That’s forcing businesses to up wages to compete for workers in a limited pool.

There is a danger, of course, that job creation will continue to outpace growth in the labor pool until the point jobs go unfilled, which is one way to stop a surging economy dead in its tracks. That’s one reason you see cities across the Magic Valley putting so much emphasis on quality of life — parks, public spaces, trendy developments — that help attract new workers to the region. And that’s making our towns better places to live for new workers as well as families who’ve been here for generations.

The current economic climate is also a major driver in new opportunities in higher education, where the College of Southern Idaho and even Magic Valley high schools are implementing new programs aimed at preparing local workers for a new generation of higher-paying jobs. If that trend keeps up, we’re also likely to see progress with Idaho’s “brain-drain” problem — where local kids leave the region for education opportunities or better jobs.

As we prepare this week for Thanksgiving, let’s pause a moment to be thankful for all the opportunities we’ve created for ourselves here in the Magic Valley, while remembering that not everyone has the job they want or the pay they deserve.

There’s still plenty of work to be done, for sure. But, for now anyway, the future looks awfully bright.

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