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By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Winter has come early to parts of Idaho this year. The grey snowy days, slippery roads and no small amount of shoveling might seem oppressive at times, but these cold winter days also bear the possibility of relief from the drought that has gripped Idaho for years now. Similarly, in the aftermath of the dot-com collapse, September 11 and the ongoing military efforts in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the economy has been in an ongoing state of recovery that may have seemed a little like the cold snows of winter. And just like the water left behind after the snow melts, economic seeds of prosperity have taken root, helped along by recent federal legislation such as the Tax Relief Act, Deficit Reduction Act, the energy bill, the highway bill, and bankruptcy reform. Job numbers, historically a lagging indicator of economic strength, showed a substantial increase in November, revealing growth in our economy that has been in place for some time.November showed an increase of almost 20,000 jobs over the average from the first six months of 2005. Many industries important to Idaho saw gains:Nationwide,-Construction jobs were up 37,000 in November compared to a 24,000 per month average over the past year; due in part to reconstruction efforts in the hurricane-damaged South; -Over the past twelve months, 263,000 jobs have been added to healthcare and 74,000 to social assistance sectors;-The professional and business service sectors experienced growth in architecture, engineering, computer services and management and consulting;-An increase in durable goods distribution was attributed to an increase in wholesale trade;-Wood products, computers and electronicsâ?? production all experienced noticeable increases. In Idaho,-In the second quarter of 2005, there were 45,500 construction jobs, and in the first half of 2005, close to the same number of housing starts;-Idahoâ??s unemployment rate is at 3.6 percent, 1.4 percent lower than the national average;-According to statistics by the Governorâ??s Division of Financial Management, the sum of all personal income received by Idahoans (in current dollars) has increased from $27.3 billion in 1998 to a projected $40.2 billion in 2005, a gain of almost 50percent in just seven years.-Idahoâ??s personal income growth rate was 7.9 percent in 2004 and projected to be 7.4 percent in 2005, 2 percent and 1.5 percent higher, respectively, than the national average.With an economy the size of ours, it is important to consider both short term and long term data. Looking a little farther back, the record of steady job growth indicates a prospering economy despite the significant financial demands on our nation for the past five years. No less than 4.5 million jobs have been created nationwide since May 2003 and, during the first three months of 2005, Idaho saw an increase in jobs higher than any quarter since mid 1994! While these numbers represent averages, and personal income fluctuations may differ from these statistics, the overall trend is highly encouraging. As we approach the second session of the 109th Congress in 2006, I will be working to ensure that tax laws and economic policies create a favorable climate for continued economic growth; specifically, laws and policies that encourage investment in business, saving and entrepreneurship. It is good to know that the hard snows and cold of winter always portend the new growth of spring!WORD COUNT: 558