TWIN FALLS – It’s been a roller coaster year for the economy of south-central Idaho.
The housing market has been described as a “perfect storm” by realtors, appraisers and builders. Restaurants struggled to find employees. And supply chain shortages have affected all industries.
“All of these challenges, I wish we had a quick fix to solve them all, but they all seem to be related,” said Shawn Barigar, president of the Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce.
Some of those challenges may linger into the New Year and others are showing signs of abating, Barigar said. The chamber expects tourism to pick up in 2022, with international travel becoming an option again.
The board expects more international travelers from Asia to come on sightseeing buses en route to Yellowstone.
On the other hand, the housing market could face the same problems as this year.
“Looks like another wild ride for this coming year,” said Stan Tobiason, owner of Super Realty.
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In May, house prices in Twin Falls were up 29.4% since 2020. The median price for a single-family home reached $ 320,000.
In September and October, things started to improve for the first time in 14 months, Tobiason said.
“It was so much fun having good news for buyers and telling them up front that they don’t have to try seven to eight times,” he said.
This brief reprieve did not last long.
In November, homes began to sell instantly, inventory began to decline, and sellers began to receive several offers again.
Realtor.com has ranked Salt Lake City and Boise as the top two housing markets positioned for growth in 2022. With Twin Falls in the middle, Tobiason also expects strong growth here.
Supply shortages were another factor plaguing the housing industry. During the summer, wood was a limiting factor and now it’s something else.
“Garage doors have been out of stock for several months,” he said. “There is still a missing component.
The Chamber of Commerce had direct experience with delivery delays in 2021.
In September 2020, they ordered bikes for rent at the visitor center.
“We finally got them in September 2021, so it took 12 months to get bikes available,” Barigar said.
The auto industry has been hit particularly hard by shipping delays and supply chain shortages, he said.
Christian Robinson, general sales manager for Twin Falls Subaru, said new car production volume recently declined by 30%.
“I ordered a car for a customer the other day and it won’t be there until May,” Robinson said.
The world still faces a shortage of semiconductor chips that will most likely continue until 2022, he said. Multiple factors, including the pandemic, have led to a lack of inventory.
The chips used in automobiles are the same as in digital devices, such as televisions and video game systems. As a result of working from home and quarantines, more and more people were buying technology instead of a new vehicle, he said.
Buying used vehicles has helped the dealership maintain a significant supply of options for customers, he said.
“As you drive around town some lots seem to have closed,” Robinson said.
Another challenge facing the auto industry was labor shortages. Some delays in the inventory can be attributed to the lack of staff at the train stations to get the wagons off the trains.
I felt like almost every business in Twin Falls was hiring this year, Barigar said.
“You couldn’t drive on Blue Lakes without seeing help-seeking signs in every store along the way and it continues, exacerbated by housing issues,” he said.
Although south-central Idaho’s unemployment rate has continued to decline, local recruiting agencies have struggled to find workers to fill the positions.
The unemployment rate in Twin Falls County was estimated at 2.1% in November. This is a number seasonally adjusted by the Idaho Department of Labor Statistics.
“Today if I had the people I could fill about 180 positions and that’s just in Magic Valley,” said Brenda Hedrick, branch manager for Ascend Staffing. Timetable-News in September.
Hedrick has worked in staffing for almost three decades and had never seen anything like it before. More employees started applying in the fall, but she feared that would change if COVID cases continued to rise.
To survive, some restaurants have chosen to reduce hours.
The Cove of Twin Falls, Scooter’s Chillin’-N-Grillin ‘and others posted on Facebook in August that long hours were wearing out their staff.
Debra Urrutia, owner of The Cove, said staff shortages were worse than COVID closures in 2020.
Telling customers when they walk in that the wait time is going to be more than an hour is difficult for a company’s reputation, Urrutia told the Timetable-News previously. Its small staff worked until 12 noon to cover missing employees.
In November, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the unemployment rate in south-central Idaho fell below its pre-pandemic level, according to the Department of Labor Statistics. Idaho.
“There is growing unease over increasing terminations, housing costs and inflationary pressures, all of which threaten to reverse much of this progress,” the Department of Labor Statistics said. from Idaho in a press release. “As we prepare to enter 2022, the pace of Idaho’s labor market recovery gives the impression that much of the damage caused by the pandemic will be recouped.”
Health care and social assistance, retailing and manufacturing experienced the greatest hiring difficulties, the statement said.
Barigar said that despite all the challenges, 2021 has turned out to be a good year. South-central Idaho has seen robust growth and new opportunities.
“Our community has come together in the past and we have a strong regional presence and a good stable economic base, especially in agriculture,” he said. “I think God willing there is snow in the mountains and water in the spring and we are all in good shape for the New Year.”