Idaho’s leading economist said there’s more evidence that the state’s economy has bottomed out. Idaho Department of Financial Management's Mike Ferguson laid out numbers showing that Idaho’s economy is growing and that unemployment could start declining within a couple months.
It’s unclear how a shift in fortune for Idaho business would affect the next state budget. Ferguson is in charge of putting together new estimates on how many tax dollars the state expects to collect.
The main source of optimism for the Idaho economy is data showing an improving trend in Idaho’s gross domestic product (GDP). That data, called State Coincident Indexes, combines employment, manufacturing, and payroll numbers. The coincident indexes show that Idaho’s GDP grew in November, the most recent month measured.
Ferguson mentioned the possibility better days for Idaho in a speech last month and said newer numbers and events, including the latest coincident index and profitable earnings by Boise-based Micron Technology, suggest a positive trend is forming.
Ferguson said unemployment should start steadily declining by the end of 2010. More Idahoans will be also put to work temporarily early this year thanks to the national census.
It’s still unclear how this potentially rosy future will affect the Legislature's state budget-making process that’s days away from starting.
“We’re still in tough economic times,” said Senate President Pro Tem Bob Geddes. The Soda Springs Republican said Ferguson gave a panel of lawmakers plenty of information, but “didn’t give us a good projection as far as what we actually need to set a revenue figure for next fiscal year. So we’ll struggle to get that done.”
Idaho's economic future isn't guaranteed. Ferguson said any number of factors, including dwindling federal stimulus funding, could send Idaho and the U.S. back into a recession.
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