Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Idaho Struggles to Regain Economic Footing Years ago when Idaho's economy was built around timber, mining and agriculture, the state tended to come late to a recession and leave early. No more apparently. At the annual Idaho housing conference, organized by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, the state's top economist, Mike Ferguson, predicted an agonizingly slow recovery in Idaho. Ferguson opining that it could be a year from now before the Idaho economy really starts to feel like it is growing even modestly. Other participants in a panel on issues and trends in Idaho - Bob Uhlenkott and Randy Schroll of the Idaho departments of Labor and Commerce, respectively, and health insurance industry watcher Elwood Cleaver - generally agreed. Slow recovery is the expectation and unemployment could go higher. Idaho's current unemployment rates slumps at 8.9%. Brad Carlson at the Idaho Business Review has another estimate of the not exactly gloomy, but still very measured outlook. Ferguson, the long-time state economist, made a telling point when he said that Idaho's economy has suffered more than might once have been the case during the current downturn thanks to Micron downsizing in the high tech sector, Albertson's (now Supervalu) headquarters departure from Boise and the demise of the much touted, but now bankrupt resort at Tamarack. The increased diversification of the Idaho economy since the 1970's has been a good thing, but at the cost perhaps of having the state's economy behave more like the rest of the nation when a slide begins. Always looking for a silver lining, I would note one minor growth area in the Idaho economy. The No. 1 Idaho wolf tag has sold to a North Carolina bidder for $8,000. I wonder, does that qualify as foreign investment?