Boise Drags 'Em Down
The Boise area might get all the attention, but it's in the metro area's rural counterparts where all the action is happening.
While per capita income in Idaho's urban areas dropped by .3 percent in 2008 compared to 2007, it actually increased by 3.9 percent in the state's rural counties, according to recent Idaho Department of Labor statistics.
The decline in the Boise metro area was the greatest in the state at 1.2 percent, and the first time the area recorded a drop since 1969. In fact, the Boise metro area managed to drag down the state's four other urban areas, all of which reported minor gains.
According to the report, the average income in the Boise metro area in 2008 was $35,296. Still, even with the drop, incomes in Boise were still higher than any other metro area in the state.
The Department of Labor attributes last year's decline to a simple equation: Population in the Boise area grew by 2.2 percent while jobs decreased by 5.4 percent. We're no experts, but even we can see the problem with that math.
Speaking of job loss, preliminary reports show June unemployment in Ada County at 9.5 percent, and 12.3 percent in Canyon County, compared to 8.4 percent for the state.
But there is good news: According to the Department of Labor's July forecast, unemployment will actually drop to 9.4 percent in Ada County and 11.9 percent in Canyon County, although it is expected to rise to 8.8 percent for the state.
OK, so the job market might not be on fire, but the good news is that neither is the forest.
Awkward segue aside, one bright and shining (yet not smoking) spot on the Idaho summer horizon is that, to date, the wildfire season has been markedly calm. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, as of Tuesday, Aug. 11, there were no fires being fought in the state.
"We're in an average fire season, maybe below average nationally," said Ken Frederick, NIFC spokesman.
The fact that the season is even approaching normal levels is due to Alaska, where 3 million acres have burned in the land of the midnight sun, roughly 60 percent of the national total, Frederick said. But back in the lower 48, a long, wet spring has substantially helped the situation in the usually flammable West.
"We're dodging a bullet," Frederick said.
The heavy rains of last week did their part as well, wetting down drying fuels and will possibly help "keep a lid on fires for the rest of the season," he said.
Thanks to the rain, there are no restrictions on campfires on the Boise National Forest, although spokesperson Linda Steinhaus still asks that people still be careful.
Further south, fire restrictions in place since June on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management remain, and aren't likely to be lifted anytime soon, according to BLM spokesperson MJ Byrne.
"Mother nature has been cooperating," she said, adding that while the area received numerous lighting strikes during recent storms, the accompanying rain eliminated any fires.
The message: go out there and enjoy, just watch what you're lighting.
war in Iraq
U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009, 4,335 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,465 in combat and 870 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 31,463. In the last week, two U.S. soldiers died.
Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 106 soldiers have died.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense
IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 92,641 and 101,129.
COST OF IRAQ WAR: $672,720,707,596