Bringing the Economy Home

Molly Messick

Reporter (Former)

Molly Messick was StateImpact Idaho's broadcast reporter until May 2013. Prior to joining StateImpact and Boise State Public Radio, she was a reporter and host for Wyoming Public Radio. She is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

‘Til We Meet Again

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

The high adventure of reporting in Owyhee County

Today is my last at StateImpact Idaho. After better than four years spent reporting in the West, next month I’ll make good on a longtime goal. I’ll take a couple of months away from reporting for intensive Spanish study in Central America, something that will benefit my work in the future.

There are many things I’ve valued about this job. I’m grateful to have met fascinating people with stories to tell in towns and communities all over this state, from Laclede to Council to American Falls. (I’ve reported four feature stories from that one little town of 4,500 since StateImpact Idaho launched in September 2011!) Continue Reading

Bottom Rung: Readers And Listeners Share Their Stories

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

A job-seeker signed in at call center recruitment fair held by the Idaho Department of Labor last week.

StateImpact Idaho recently took a run at a big issue: the state’s low wages and its comparatively high fraction of workers who earn the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The full series, called “Bottom Rung,” is available here.

Many readers and listeners have weighed in, in some cases sending their own stories. For example, Monday’s feature focused in part on a McDonald’s franchise that’s just across the Idaho border, in Washington, where the minimum wage is considerably higher than Idaho’s, at $9.19 per hour.  Continue Reading

Bottom Rung: Why Building A Strong Idaho Economy Takes Public Investment

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Bob Lokken, CEO of WhiteCloud Analytics, in his downtown Boise office

Bob Lokken, CEO of Boise-based WhiteCloud Analytics, is three years into building his new company. It designs software for health care professionals with the aim of allowing doctors and others to interrogate vast amounts of health care data. Lokken founded it after his previous company, ProClarity Corporation, was bought by Microsoft.

Recently, he showed me around the downtown office where software developers work intently behind large computer screens. I wasn’t there to talk about better health outcomes through guided data analysis; I was there to talk about Idaho’s workforce.

This week, StateImpact Idaho is reporting on low-wage work through its series “Bottom Rung.” Retired University of Idaho economist Stephen Cooke offers a blunt assessment of Idaho’s shifting employment picture. He believes the state is on a path toward a growing number of low-skilled, low-wage jobs.  Continue Reading

Bottom Rung: Construction Jobs Gained And Lost, And Their Place In Idaho’s Economy

This week, StateImpact‘s “Bottom Rung” series is looking at low-wage work in Idaho. We’re asking why the state has an outsized share of minimum wage jobs.

Construction employment was the starting point for the broadcast story that aired this morning. The construction industry suffered especially steep losses in the recession. In Idaho, the number of construction workers remains more than 40 percent below its 2007 peak, even as local home prices regain lost ground and new home building picks up.

Data Source: Idaho Department of Labor

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Bottom Rung: The Workforce Shift That’s Costing Idaho Good-Paying Jobs

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

A Steelhead Construction worker measures siding for a new home west of Boise.

Not long ago, you could hear the buzz of power saws all over the Treasure Valley. It was punctuated by the steady rhythm of hammers and nail guns. More than 10,000 homes went up in Ada and Canyon counties in the two years before the recession hit. Then, the sound stopped.

“’08 and ’09 were really hard,” says Aaron Wright of Steelhead Construction. He founded the siding and remodeling company as Idaho’s housing boom took hold. At the peak, Wright employed more than 30 people. When the market crashed, he scaled back to three.

  Continue Reading

Bottom Rung: Two Idaho Workers Talk About Life On Low Wages

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

John was an IT director 10 years ago. Now he spends his workdays behind the register of a Boise store.

Wages are lower in Idaho than in nearly ever other state. That’s often chalked up to Idaho’s rural nature and low cost of living. But recently, the state has lost ground.

A federal Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that Idaho has the largest share of workers earning minimum wage in the country. And that share — 7.7 percent — has grown rapidly.

All this week, we’ll explain the trends that are playing out at the bottom of Idaho’s wage scale. Today, we’re asking: What is it like to earn minimum wage or close to it in Idaho?  Continue Reading

Rankings Of Idaho’s Business Climate? Take Them With A Grain Of Salt

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact Idaho

In Meridian, a worker trains to become a mechanical technician.

Why does Idaho come in ninth in one index evaluating state business taxes and climates, but 31st in another?

According to a report published today by Good Jobs First, a nonprofit that focuses on accountability in economic development and business subsidies, there’s a simple answer: the enterprise of ranking states’ business climates is fundamentally flawed.

“There is no such thing as a ‘state business climate,'” says Good Jobs First Director Greg LeRoy. Businesses, he says, generally make location decisions based on the qualities of a particular metro area, not of an entire state.  Continue Reading

In Boise, Too, Home Prices Show Quick Growth


Single-family home prices rose by 9.3 percent in February compared to a year earlier, their fastest rate of growth in nearly seven years. That’s according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index, which is based on 20 metropolitan areas, not including Boise.

Data from the Intermountain Multiple Listing Service show single-family home prices in Ada and Canyon counties have appreciated at an even faster rate. The average home price in Ada County stood at $210,672 in February, a 14.6 percent increase from the year before. In Canyon County, the average home price was $121,867, a nearly 12.5 percent increase from February of 2012.  Continue Reading

Idaho Farmers Make Adjustments As Dry Conditions Set In

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Last August, a pivot irrigation system on Jim Tiede's farm gave his potato crop a steady spray of water.

Last year, many of Idaho’s irrigated farmers fared well despite dry conditions because snow and rainfall the year before left reservoirs full. This year the picture is different. There’s less carryover — the term water managers use to describe the water that remains in reservoirs from the previous year — and dry conditions persist.

Farmer Jim Tiede, who grows sugar beets, potatoes, corn and wheat on 3,000 acres near American Falls, says he’s planning for a lower than usual water allocation from the Aberdeen-Springfield Canal.  Continue Reading

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