Rural Idaho Left Behind In Early Economic Recovery

By Jessica Robinson

New numbers out Monday show Idaho's rural areas experienced the post-recession years very differently from the state's cities. While places like Boise and Pocatello were on the mend, economic output in rural communities in Idaho declined.

At first glance, Idaho's rural counties appeared to be making an economic recovery with the rest of the state. But Idaho’s Department of Labor says when you take inflation into account, the output of goods and services from rural Idaho actually declined by $90 million in 2011.

Year after year, rural areas are making up less and less of Idaho's overall economic activity.

Katherine Tacke is a regional state economist in Lewiston, Idaho. She says rural areas felt the effects of sagging demand for lumber and penny-wise tourists. Along with prices at the pump.

Katherine Tacke: “Higher fuel prices hurt rural communities more than they hurt urban communities. We have further to transport our goods and products – and, simply to get around our own areas.”

However, Tacke expects the 2012 and 2013 rural numbers to tell a different story. She says Idaho’s farmers have been enjoying high prices and the state’s timber industry is feeling the first ripples of recovery in home construction.

And Tacke says rural Idaho is not a homogenous economy. Places like Lewis County are humming along with new manufacturing jobs.

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