Economy

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Luanne Jensen sits in an alley behind Boise’s Interfaith Sanctuary homeless shelter. She recently had knee surgery, so she's sitting on a bench built into her walker. The surgery, she says, is why she’s staying at Interfaith Sanctuary -- again. Jensen says she stayed here three years ago before landing a job. Now, she can’t work.

Super Bowl suspense is building — for the game and the commercials. With an audience of over 100 million people, advertisers covet this space, but at a reported $4 million a spot, only the mightiest corporations can afford Super Bowl exposure. This year, though, there's an exception. One lucky little business will get one of those primo slots — free.

RoadsidePictures / Flickr Creative Commons

The grocery chain Albertsons plans to close several stores in the Northwest.

The Albany Democrat-Herald in Oregon reports that seven of 111 shops will be shuttered. The affected stores are in Washington and Oregon.

Albertsons spokesman Dennis McCoy says the Boise-based company is continuously evaluating its stores, pulling the plug on locations that are less profitable.

McCoy says some of the employees who worked at the affected stores may be able to transfer to a different location.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

The new head of Idaho's Labor Department says the state needs to shift its focus to better paying jobs that will help grow the state's economy. 

Ken Edmunds is now in his second month as the head of Idaho’s Labor Department. The Twin Falls businessman replaced longtime labor director Roger Madsen in late November.   

The Palouse Knowledge Corridor has announced plans intended to attract startup businesses to the region that includes north-central Idaho and eastern Washington state.

The group includes representatives from the University of Idaho, Washington State University, and area cities.

The Lewiston Tribune reports the group on Thursday presented an idea for a five-day conference called "Be the Entrepreneur Bootcamp" it hopes to hold June 21 to June 25.

Wheat Field
JayneAndd / Flickr Creative Commons

Direct payments from the government to Idaho farmers and ranchers dropped 17 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year.

University of Idaho agricultural economists tell The Capital Press that the projections are based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.

John Foltz, dean of University of Idaho's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, says government payments to Idaho farmers will likely continue to decline in future years.

Megaload
Rick Strack / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho State Police say two gigantic loads of oil production equipment headed for Montana didn't move Thursday morning.

One of the shipments is parked on U.S. Highway 20 east of Arco.

The other is parked on State Highway 93 at Lost Trail Pass about 10 miles from the Montana border.

The shipments being moved by Omega Morgan are bound for the Kearl oil sands of Alberta in Canada.

Weather has been a problem for moving the loads, and Montana officials have yet to issue a permit for the load 10 miles from the border.

A Hood River distillery has the top selling brand of liquor according to sales numbers released by the state of Oregon. But other craft distillers say those hot numbers don’t reflect their experience.

senate, legislature, capitol
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

If forced to pay its bills using reserves, Idaho could've funded state government for 14.7 days last fiscal year. That data has been collected and analyzed by The Pew Charitable Trusts for all 50 states, going back to fiscal year 2000.

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

Idaho lawmakers will take a look at state employee pay rates this year as they continue to fall behind market rates.

The Spokesman-Review reported Thursday that pay for Idaho employees is about 19 percent below market rates, and that gap has been growing for the last decade.

Two large pieces of oil equipment crossing the Northwest are expected to start moving again after the New Year's holiday.

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.

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