Bringing the Economy Home

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

Regulators Zero In On Short-Term, High-Interest Loans

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

There are more than 220 payday lenders in Idaho.

More than a dozen states have put caps on payday loan interest rates, limiting and in some cases shutting down the industry in many states.

The pitch to cap rates in Idaho hasn’t been successful. Still, big banks have started offering short-term, high-interest loans to make up for the loss in the payday lending industry.

The Wall Street Journal this week summed up how those loans work, and which banks offer them. Continue Reading

Will Idaho’s Health Insurance Exchange Bring More Competition?

Wenzday01 / Flickr

The Obama administration has taken a few hits this month over the federal health care law. The administration’s decision to put off creating an insurance marketplace aimed at small businesses brought dismay. Then, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) predicted a “train wreck coming” as key aspects of Obamacare are implemented. His concern? People simply don’t understand what the law does. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey backs that up.

Now, a Stateline article argues the lack of competing health insurers within some states could hamper the health insurance exchanges established under the law. Continue Reading

Idaho Ag Producers Compete For Grant Money

Tribp / Flickr Creative Commons

Capital Press reports a record number of Idaho agriculture groups have applied for specialty crop grants.

The grants are financed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since 2009, the Idaho Department of Agriculture reports more than $3.5 million in grants have gone to Idaho producers. Capital Press reports $1 million will be up for grabs in 2013.

“A total of 24 applications seeking $1.8 million were submitted in 2012 and 12 of the applications totaling $844,000 were approved. In 2011, 16 applications seeking $1.6 million were submitted and eight totaling $926,000 were approved.” – Capital Press  Continue Reading

Panel Selects Idaho’s Health Insurance Exchange Executive Director

Idaho is on the fast-track to create its own online health insurance exchange. This week, the newly-minted exchange board met for the first time and voted unanimously to hire a Portland consultant to head the project.

The Spokesman-Review reports the exchange board has voted to hire Amy Dowd as executive director. She has accepted the new job with a salary in the “$175,000 range.”  Continue Reading

Familiar Idaho Careers Fall On 2013 Worst Jobs List

Blue Mountain Local Studies / Flickr Creative Commons

Printing press circa 1910.

The Wall Street Journal and came out with the top jobs of 2013 list this week. They ranked 200 jobs based on things like income, stress and hiring outlook.

The top job, according to their list, is an actuary.

So, what’s an actuary? We didn’t know either.

“Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk that an event will occur and to help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk.” – Continue Reading

Idaho’s Unemployment Rate Holds Steady As Labor Force Shrinks

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Idaho's housing sector has shown signs of improvement, but the monthly jobs report attributes the state's flat unemployment rate to a contracting workforce.

Idaho’s jobless rate remained flat last month, at 6.2 percent. The Idaho Department of Labor’s monthly report says the rate is holding steady despite anemic hiring because of an ongoing decline in the size of the state’s workforce.

Total employment fell by about 600 people in March, even as employers hired about 13,000 workers, according to the report.

Since December of last year, more than 2,600 people have dropped out of Idaho’s workforce.  That reverses gains made in 2012 as the economy showed signs of recovery.  It means the state’s labor force is about the same size as it was in 2011.  Continue Reading

StateImpact Idaho Wins Three Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards


We don’t toot our own horn very often, but today we simply couldn’t resist.

We’ve won three regional Edward R. Murrow Awards! Our winning work will now be submitted for the national competition.

The awards recognize work of the highest quality produced by radio, television and online news organizations around the world.

“For more than 40 years, the Edward R. Murrow Award has honored the best of electronic journalism,” said Mike Cavender, Executive Director of RTDNA. “This year’s winners represent the outstanding work being done in local newsrooms, which we are proud to recognize.” Continue Reading

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