Economy

Stories about the economy, business and innovation.

According to newly-released data from the USDA's agricultural census, the number of farms in the Northwest is dropping.

Butch Otter
State of Idaho

 Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is launching an initiative he says will boost economic development using planning collaboration but not much spending.

The governor announced the plan, called Accelerate Idaho, Thursday afternoon. The initiative establishes a checklist of areas needing improvement, including K-12 education, infrastructure and labor shortages in key industries.

sign, Idaho
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

A new Gallup poll reveals a high rate of Idahoans are planning to leave the state. The poll measures how many people would prefer to be in a different state, given the chance.

Overall, the Northwest has a pretty loyal crowd. Oregonians, in particular, are quite happy where they are.

Exactly half of Idaho's top employers in each of its 44 counties are private businesses, while the other half are government entities. That's a change from 2012 when we reported on the same data. Then, the top employers in 28 counties were public and 16 were private sector businesses.

facebook.com/declara.inc

A software company with an Idaho presence is expanding its operations thanks to an influx of cash. Palo Alto-based Declara announced a new $16 million investment Wednesday.

The company’s Boise office of 10 developers will double because of that, a spokesman says. It also plans to expand its offices in California and Mexico.

Call Center Job Fair
Molly Messick / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho's unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest point since August 2008.  It dropped a tenth of a percent in March to 5.2 percent. 

Bob Fick is with the Idaho Department of Labor. He says the March data continues a trend that started a year and a half ago.

“We’ve seen job creation at two percent to three percent over the last 18 months, while the national rate has been about 1.5, 1.6 every month, year over year," Fick says. "So we’re creating jobs at a significant pace."

Ross Elliott / Flickr Creative Commons

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe in northern Idaho plans to offer poker after deciding Idaho's constitutional ban on the game doesn't apply to the tribal-owned casino.

The Spokesman-Review reports the tribe has announced plans to open a poker room on May 2.

The tribe says it will offer Texas Hold' Em and Omaha.

Tribe spokesman Helo Hancock says several legal opinions have led the tribe to conclude that poker is exempted from state regulation under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Many Northwest alfalfa growers had a rough year with bad weather last summer.

Officials say the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport needs improvements to keep up with more demand and bigger aircraft.

Airport Executive Director Tony Bean says the airport has fallen behind the times due to aircraft increasing in size.

Bean says there isn't the space and capacity to land current-size aircraft safely, and as the trend doesn't seem likely to change, the problem will only worsen.

smcgee / Flickr

The executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission says the state is getting national attention for its wines.

Moya Dolsby credits a $400,000 annual budget funded through the state liquor tax and wine industry assessment as well as enthusiastic supporters.

Dolsby tells the Lewiston Tribune that she no longer has to beg restaurants and retailers to try Idaho wines.

The state's wine industry has grown from a single commercial winery in 1976 to 50 today.

Northwest asparagus growers are just starting to harvest spears in the warmer sites around Pasco, Wash.

money, dollars, wages
401(K)2013 / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho's average wage increased by almost 20 cents last year. But wage growth isn't keeping up with the national average. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Employment Survey finds Idaho's average hourly wage for all jobs was $18.67 last year, that's up 19 cents from 2012. Still, Idaho's average wage was almost 84 percent of the national average, which is $22.33 an hour.  

The survey also found that half of Idaho's hourly employees earned $14.68 or less in 2013. That's a 10 cent increase from 2012. 

housing, map
National Low Income Housing Coalition

An Idaho worker earning the minimum wage would need to work 73 hours per week in order to afford a modest two-bedroom rental according to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

fast food, kitchen, minimum wage
Gorgeoux / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho’s share of minimum wage workers declined 0.6 percent from 2012 to 2013 according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The drop means Idaho no longer has the largest share of minimum wage workers in the country; Tennessee has taken Idaho’s spot.

trapping, wildlife
Jessica Murri / For Boise State Public Radio

Just four years ago, bobcat fur sold for about $200. Now, that same bobcat pelt can be sold for almost $2,000. Higher prices come from a rise in demand for fur in Asia, and it has led to more trappers in the field here in Idaho.

Patrick Carney, president of the Idaho Trappers Association, gets calls almost daily from folks who want advice on how to get into commercial trapping.

Idaho's unemployment rate dropped another tenth of a percentage point in February to 5.3 percent, the lowest rate in more than 5 years.

That decline came as the participation rate - which is the percentage of the population 16 and older working or actively looking for work - fell a tenth of a percentage point to 63.7 percent.

Idaho's participation rate dropped below 64 percent last October - the first time in over 30 years - and has been gradually sliding since.

In Olympia, Washington policymakers are pondering whether to make an end run around looming cutbacks in the federally-funded food stamp program.

RoadsidePictures / Flickr Creative Commons

Safeway says it has agreed to be acquired by an investment group led by Cerberus Capital Management, the owner of Albertsons and several other supermarket chains.

The acquisition is worth about $7.64 billion in cash, and pending other transactions could top more than $9 billion.

It comes amid ongoing consolidation in the supermarket industry, which is facing growing competition from big-box retailers, specialty chains, drug stores and even dollar stores.

Micron
Micron Technology

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says Idaho and other states have obtained court approval of a $311 million settlement involving Boise-based Micron Technology and other computer chip makers.

The court approval announced Tuesday means consumers can start filing claims to recoup the money they overpaid as a result of chip makers engaging in unlawful anti-competitive practices to inflate prices.

The approval involves the settlement of a lawsuit Idaho and 34 other states brought against 12 makers of dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM.

bitcoin
Antanacoins / Flickr Creative Commons

A North Idaho man is selling lake-front property for bitcoin, a digital currency that isn't regulated like the U.S. dollar.

The Coeur d'Alene Press reports Hayden resident Alen Golub has joined with neighbors to sell 660 waterfront acres. Golub tells the paper he's selling his 50 acres in exchange for bitcoin.

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