Economy

population
Alaskan_Dude / Flickr Creative Commons

For the first time, Idaho’s population has topped 1.6 million. The latest U.S. Census Bureau estimate shows Idaho gained 16,500 people in 2013 for a grand total of 1,612,136.

That’s slightly more than 1 percent growth from 2012. The fastest growing state, at more than 3 percent, was North Dakota. That's thanks to its recent oil and gas boom.

Two states, Maine and West Virginia, saw population declines from 2012 to 2013.

Here’s how Idaho’s neighbors compare in total population for 2013:

money, wages
Molly Messick / Boise State Public Radio

The minimum wage goes up Wednesday in 13 states. Idaho isn’t one of them, but some of its neighbors are.

Washington and Oregon already have the first and second highest minimum wages in the country at $9.19 and $8.95 respectively. And, effective January 1, the lowest paid workers in Washington must get $9.32 an hour, and $9.10 in Oregon.

Northwest banks say 2014 may be the year consumers start to see a new generation of credit cards that are less prone to fraud.

Idaho's share of the now-expiring extended federal unemployment benefit program is ending at $800 million in payments, with the last 2,500 long-term unemployed workers in the state getting their final cut this week.

Congress didn't renew the extended benefit program that began in 2008, just after the recession began, to ease pain of escalating unemployment amid the housing bubble's burst and deep dip of the stock market.

But the extended program is just a share of money paid out to jobless people since 2008.

A megaload of oil refinery equipment headed to Canada has arrived in Idaho.

The 380-foot, 450-ton load left Vale, Ore., Sunday night, traveled across the border and was parked Monday at the junction of U.S. Highway 95 and Idaho Highway 55.

It took three weeks for the load to travel 315 miles through Oregon.

The Idaho Department of Transportation issued a permit Friday to Omega Morgan.

It will be allowed to travel in Idaho only between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and it will not be allowed to travel at all from Monday evening until Wednesday night.

The Northwest wine industry has grown tremendously over the last few decades. That’s had a big economic impact but has also changed the region’s landscape.

megaload, map, route
Idaho Department of Transportation

This post was updated at 5:15 p.m.

Snow has delayed a 450-ton shipment of oilfield equipment from moving into Idaho as it rumbles toward the tar sands oil development in Canada.

The company hauling the megaload had expected to cross the border from Vale, Ore., into Idaho on Friday night.

Spokeswoman Holly Zander says they will have to wait for better weather, and hope to try again Saturday night.

Meanwhile, the state of Idaho has issued a permit for the megaload to use highways crossing the southern part of the state on its way to Montana.

Idaho's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell by a record sixth-tenths of a percentage point to 6.1 percent in November.

The state Labor Department said Friday the rate matches the post-recession low posted last spring and the decline is double the previous record one-month swing of three-tenths of a percentage point.

The agency says about 3,800 more Idahoans were at work in November, with total unemployment dropping to 47,300, the lowest level since last spring.

In November 2012, Idaho's unemployment rate was 6.5 percent with over 50,000 people out of work.

The huge piece of oil equipment wending its way through eastern Oregon is expected to cross over into Idaho early Saturday.

Meanwhile, another so-called “megaload” project has emerged farther north. The proposed extra-heavy haul is making some homeowners nervous in north Idaho resort town of Coeur d’Alene.

About 45,000 people in the Northwest will face the new year without the unemployment benefits they've come to rely on.

Officials in a southwestern Idaho city have passed new rules limiting where payday loan businesses can open shop.

The Idaho Press-Tribune reports the Caldwell City Council unanimously passed an ordinance this week limiting new payday loan businesses to manufacturing and light industrial zones. The rules mean that if a payday loan company wants to open a storefront in a populated area, it will have to get a special use permit first.

An unprecedented rash of credit card fraud in one corner of the Northwest is forcing banks to put limits on card purchases – just in time for the busiest shopping season of the year.

Photo by Hecla Mining

Four miners who were injured and trapped by a rock burst at a northern Idaho mine two years ago are suing Hecla Mining Co., alleging mine mangers sent them into unsafe working conditions while assuring them the area was safe.

The Spokesman-Review reports Ronnel E. Barrett, Gregg Hammerberg, Eric J. Tester and Matthew Williams are seeking more than $1 million for injuries, medical treatment and lost wages.

Northwest farmers hired significantly more foreign guest workers this season under a special immigration program.

Transportation, megaload
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

A shipment of nearly a million pounds of oil field equipment resumed its drive Tuesday night toward Canada. The load had been stopped for the past week by bad weather in eastern Oregon.

A spokeswoman for the company in charge of the shipment, Omega Morgan, says the "megaload" started moving again around 10 p.m.  Holly Zander says crews pulled the equipment about 50 miles along Highway 395 before stopping around 4 a.m.

Omega Morgan is expected to be issued the necessary permits to move the load through southern Idaho.

TBiley / Flickr Creative Commons

Greek yogurt company Chobani says it is increasing production at its Twin Falls plant and adding production of a new "light" yogurt called Simply 100.

Chobani officials tell The Times-News the $450 million plant is running at optimal production capability for the first time since it opened a year ago. When the plant opened, it made about 100,000 cases of yogurt per week running three or four production lines. It is now running 12 production lines and producing up to a million cases of yogurt a week.

Northwest wine grape growers expect this week's cold weather to do some damage to their vineyards. But it’s not clear yet how much of next year’s fruit might be affected.

Washington Post

A Washington Post analysis of elite Zip codes in the United States shows Idaho doesn’t have a so-called Super Zip. These are high-end neighborhoods where the median annual household income is $120,000 and 7 in 10 adults have a college degree.

The Post analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data and plotted their findings on this interactive map. There are 650 Super Zips in the country, with the largest concentration of wealth and education in Washington, D.C.

potatoes
thebittenword.com / Flickr Creative Commons

A set of lawsuits winding its way through federal court in Idaho combine a couple phrases you might not expect to find together: "massive international cartel" and "potato."

According to a group of grocers, the innocuous looking potato on your plate got there through a conspiracy involving price-fixing, coercion and aerial surveillance. But potato growers counter there is no cartel. Just a co-op.

As the Christmas shopping season gets into full-swing, Black Friday was a day of protest for some in the Northwest.

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