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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of August 20 - 26, 2003


Blaine growth
spurt could slow

New study examines local economics

Local wages
Blaine County occupational wages
(starting, per hour) include:

Elementary teachers    $17.11
Secondary teachers    $17.15
Social workers    $20.32
Registered nurses    $19.76
Legal secretaries    $11.03
Bookkeepers    $11.47
Cashiers    $7.28
Motel housekeeping    $7.13
Nannies    $10.12
Butlers    $13.45
Chefs    $13.33
Sous chefs    $12.96
Landscapers    $10.54
Construction labor    $13.46
Electricians    $19.59
Maintenance mechanics    $15.93

Source: Idaho Department of Labor

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County’s recent growth spurts may slow due to traffic congestion and lack of local affordable housing, says a statistical profile just released by the Idaho Department of Labor.

Blaine County’s population increased from 15,081 in 1992 to 20,378 in 2002, a 26 percent increase, which makes Blaine the fastest growing county in South Central Idaho during the last decade, said Greg Rogers, Idaho Department of Labor Regional Labor Economist.

At the same time, Blaine County’s unemployment rate has held steady, indicating a "very stable economy."

"Your economy is very, very strong in tourism and its related jobs," Rogers said. "Also a significant sector is the construction industry."

Blaine County’s per-capita income outpaces the rest of Idaho and most of the United States. The average resident made $43,991 in 2001, compared to $24,506 in Idaho and $30,413 throughout the United States.

But Rogers pointed out that the livable wage in Blaine County is considered to be $21 per hour, a wage many local employers are unable to pay.

"Even though Blaine County’s wages are higher than South Central Idaho, living wages are higher still," he said. "That makes it very difficult for employers to attract and retain employees."

Along with enormous growth come highway congestion and affordable housing problems, Rogers said.

"All of those things have to be balanced. The attractions of your area are the beauty, the quality of life, the small-town atmosphere, and some of those things are pushing the envelope a bit," he said.

According to the county profile, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Blaine County was 6.1 percent in 1991, and the rate peaked in 1992 at 7.4 percent. In 2001, the average unemployment rate was 2.9 percent.

"This rate was one of the lowest in the state of Idaho," according to the August 2003 Blaine County Profile. "The seasonality of work in Blaine County has smoothed out due to more spring and summer recreation opportunities and the numerous construction projects to improve roads."



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