Business

No recession here: Idaho receives unexpected double-dose of good news

After enjoying record-high profits in 2014, dairy profits fell 30 percent in 2015 and will likely fall again this year. Some Idaho economists predicted a poor year for agriculture would drive the overall economy into recession, but the a new report found better-than-expected growth in the state economy.
After enjoying record-high profits in 2014, dairy profits fell 30 percent in 2015 and will likely fall again this year. Some Idaho economists predicted a poor year for agriculture would drive the overall economy into recession, but the a new report found better-than-expected growth in the state economy. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

Idaho’s gross domestic product increased an estimated 2.8 percent in the second quarter of 2016, according to a federal report released Wednesday.

Analysts at the Idaho Department of Labor paid closer attention to the quarterly report than usual, because the first-quarter report said the state economy shrank by 0.2 percent, department research analyst supervisor Craig Shaul said. Two consecutive quarterly declines would meet economists’ technical definition of a recession.

But the new data, from the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Commerce, revised the first-quarter figures to show 3 percent growth during the first quarter, rather than a decline.

Shaul said he wasn’t shocked by the changes, because other indicators, including the state’s low unemployment rate — 3.8 percent in November for the fourth straight month — reflected a healthy economy. Adjusting previous estimates is common in national reports, he said.

However, with steady economic growth since the economic downturn, Shaul said analysts now expect stagnation or decline in the future.

“Things been positive for so long, we’re looking for the storm on the horizon and expecting to see it,” Shaul said. “We’re looking at the constraint of the skilled labor force as a hindrance to economic growth.”

The latest report showed that Idaho farms were the largest source of growth in the second quarter, followed by real estate. Garth Taylor, an agricultural economist at University of Idaho, had predicted the gross state product would fall, because most sectors had a dismal year fueled by poor commodity prices. Dairies — the state’s largest ag sector — struggled for a second straight year.

An adjustment to ag revenue projections changed the outlook for the entire state economy, Taylor said.

“The real story is the Idaho economy, at least for the last couple of quarters, has been swinging around with ag,” Taylor said.

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