Economy

Roadsidepictures / Flickr

Malls across the country have been closing in recent years as consumers prefer the ease of online shopping or go to big box stores that offer practically everything. Nationally, malls may be in jeopardy, but in Idaho, they’re still flourishing.

In the 80s, there was nowhere cooler than the mall. But changing times and a shifting retail landscape have altered that – almost everywhere.

Justin Lynham / Flickr

Idaho’s unemployment rate is now down to 3.5 percent.

The figure has inched south from 3.6 percent in February.

According to the Idaho Department of Labor, this is the 78th straight month with labor force gains. The total labor force participation rate in Idaho – that’s the percentage of people over 16 holding down a job or looking for work – dropped a tenth of a percent to a solid 64 percent.

Of 23,600 jobs posted online last month, 4,200 were classified as “hard to fill.” 14 percent of those hard-to-fill jobs are in the healthcare field.

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Update, April 20: The Valley County team did not take home one of the top prizes in Denver, despite making it to the finals. 

Interfaith Sanctuary

Boise’s Interfaith Sanctuary is holding a musical benefit Thursday night at the Record Exchange. Its directors say they’ve changed how they look at homelessness and now rely more than ever on the generosity of the community.

Interfaith Co-Director Jodi Peterson says in the past, the Sanctuary had two licensed social workers to serve 164 guests at night at the shelter. But Peterson says that wasn’t enough. So they upped the budget from $650,000 to one million dollars, and now employ 10 case managers.

Julio Cortez / AP

Gas prices have been flat for a month, except in Idaho. The Gem State’s prices are up.

AAA Idaho says the state’s average price went up seven cents in February to $2.44 a gallon. The national average is $2.30 a gallon.

The price hike began when Plains All American Pipeline had to shut down its Wasatch gas pipeline. That cut off the supply of crude oil from Wyoming to Salt Lake City where it gets refined into gasoline. Without a pipeline, the oil is being sent by truck, which takes time and costs more.

Tom Michael / Boise State Public Radio

Many agree the immigration system is broken, and there’s a national debate on how best to fix it. This debate is sometimes based on emotions, not on data. But a new study released Tuesday is taking a closer look at the numbers.

Asmaa Albukaie was Boise’s first refugee from Syria, arriving in late 2014.

"For me as a refugee, I came searching for safety and peace," Albukaie says.

She found that. She also found work.

capitol, statehouse, idaho
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Governor Butch Otter said Monday during his State of the State address that education is his top priority for his fiscal year 2018 budget request.

His speech focused on education, tax relief and Idaho’s economy.

“Our finances are secure. Revenue is exceeding expectations. Economic growth is outpacing the overall growth of government and our own operations are more transparent and efficient than ever,” says Otter.

He is also proposing some tax relief.

PNC Financial Services Group

The slow recovery of the U.S. economy is continuing to keep the cost of Christmas from spiraling out of control. 

Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group has tracked the cost of the gifts mentioned in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" song for the last 33 years. Think of it as a way spice up the otherwise dry topic of inflation.

real estate, home for sale, housing market
Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has increased the price of mortgages they will insure in 2017.

This is the first time since 2009 that HUD has increased the amount for federally backed mortgages. Growing demand for housing in Idaho is a factor.

Imagine a world where you are driven to work by a driverless car, your morning news is written by a computer, and your lunch is prepared by a robot. In such a world, it would not be a stretch to wonder if humans were about to become obsolete. We’ve already seen this scenario play out in movies and popular novels.  But according to today’s guest, there are reasons to worry about how new technologies are reshaping the real world right now.

Peter Barker / Flickr Creative Commons

A lumber mill in northern Idaho has closed down, leaving about 40 people without work.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that Tri-Pro Forest Products closed its Orofino mill on Tuesday. Resource Manager Mike Boeck says a lack of cedar logs forced the company to curtail operations at the Clearwater County mill over the past few weeks.

For much of the 20th century, private and public enterprises worked as both partners and adversaries to drive economic growth in our country. But in recent years, the balance within this so-called “mixed economy” has shifted away from public investment and regulation. Today, the term “Big Government” is widely considered a pejorative – despite the role public institutions have historically played in laying the foundation for social development and prosperity.

Idaho's unemployment rate in July slightly bumped up from last month to 3.8 percent.

The Idaho Department of Labor in a news release Friday says continued demand for workers and an increase in people looking for work caused the rate to move from the previous 3.7 percent. The last time state's unemployment increased was in April 2015.

However, Idaho has regained its status as number one in the nation for job growth in July with nearly 23,000 more jobs.

Total employment for Idaho grew by more than 1,000 to 781,000.

Nathan Feir / Flickr

Going somewhere over the July 4 weekend? You are not alone. AAA Idaho says 215,000 Idahoans will be traveling over the holiday period.

AAA Idaho says Independence Day is typically the busiest summer travel holiday, thanks to summer vacations and kids out of school.

Around the country, 43 million Americans are expected to travel over the weekend. That’s five million more than Memorial Day. Idaho and other mountain states will see 3.2 million holiday trips.

Thanks to low gas prices, 173,000 Idahoans will take their car when they travel this weekend.

Mike Mozart, Flickr Creative Commons

For the past six months in a row Idaho has led the nation in job growth. That’s according to the Idaho Department of Labor, which cites data from Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The department predicts that job growth for all of 2016 will be between 3 and 3.5 percent.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Agricultural exports, a major segment of Idaho’s economy, took a 22 percent drop last year. That’s a decline of more than $200 million. Domestic ag sales were down in 2015 as well, as were the state’s non-ag exports, but neither saw as steep a drop as agricultural exports.

Roughly a quarter of Idaho ag products go overseas. And the going over the sea part was some of the problem according to Laura Johnson, market development manager at Idaho’s Department of Agriculture. Issues at west coast ports hurt sales to Asia.

Department of Interior

In an address at the National Geographic Society in Washington D.C., Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stressed the need for what she characterized as a "major course correction" in conservation. Despite her location at the nation's capital, the majority of her comments were about places thousands of miles away. 

Joel Franusic / Flickr

The price at the pump is the lowest it has been in Idaho on this date since 2009. That's despite the cost of gas going up for more than a month.

Gas prices have risen for 36 of the past 41 days, says AAA Idaho. Despite that, Idaho's average price for a gallon of gas is just $2.07. It hasn't been that low on April 5 since 2009, when it hit $1.97 a gallon. In 2012, we were paying $3.78 for gas in early April.

Jill Stewart / Flickr Creative Commons

Cities are looking to spend extra cash left in their budget thanks to the drop in fuel prices in 2015.

The Idaho Press-Tribune reports that Caldwell and Nampa saw major savings in their 2015 fuel budgets. In Nampa, the police department has had surplus funds in its fuel budget for the past three years.

Those of us who grew up playing the board game “Monopoly” likely remember the thrill of landing on an up-for-grabs Boardwalk or Park Place, and buying the pricey properties with our stash of brightly colored fake money. We might also recall the feeling of trepidation when we landed on those same properties after they had been purchased and improved by someone else, knowing we would have to pay an exorbitant rental fee before we could once again pass “Go” and collect our much-needed $200.

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