January 10, 2007

A TIME TO GROW

By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Winter might be an odd time to talk about job growth. The harsh reality for many rural Idahoans in natural resource-based economies (especially this year where parts of Idaho have had bouts of extreme weather) is that winter is a time when some people may have to rely on unemployment benefits to get through a few lean months. Thankfully, there is usually abundant work in the spring, summer and fall months and, from what the numbers are showing, even more than there has been in years past. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Idaho experienced the sixth highest personal income growth rate in the nation, from the second to the third quarters of 2006. Our nationâ??s economy has been adding jobs for 40 consecutive months now. In the last three and a half years, the 7.2 million jobs that have been created in the United States surpassed job creation totals in the European Union and Japan combined. After-tax income and real wages have both increased, the former a whopping 9.6 percent since 2000. The national unemployment rate remains well below the average of each of the past four decades, and Idaho experienced a record low jobless rate in 2006. While the jury is still out on the outlook for the housing market (an important industry in Idaho) with some analysts saying weâ??ve reached the bottom and others not quite so optimistic, many signs point to the fact that the diverse strength inherent in our national economy is helping us weather recent national housing market squalls. Job growth indicates a positive economic outlook by industry and business. Employers add jobs when they are experiencing growth or hopeful about future growth. Itâ??s fair to say that our strong and growing economy is due, in part, to the tax relief that has helped put an average of over $2,500 back into taxpayersâ?? wallets. People are able to allocate their own money as they see fit, and our economy is better off for it. Additionally, and to the discredit of many naysayers, after three years of significant tax relief, weâ??ve seen a dramatic increase in federal tax revenue. Still, itâ??s important to remember that in better times, both personally and on the federal level, we must spend and save responsibly. Prudence with our government finances is critical to our economy and the role it plays in the world. Reducing the budget deficit is what is needed to ensure that gains from job growth here in the United States continue to feed the pool of capital and resources needed to remain competitive on a global level. As a nation, we experienced some â??winter monthsâ?? a few years ago. We are entering what looks to be a booming spring for our national economy in the context of the global marketplace. In order to experience the flush times of summer growth, we must enact sound fiscal policy, emphasize education--especially in math and science, promote and support research and development in critical industries and continue to call for effective and fair global trade practices. Our world is becoming a highly competitive place. Maintaining our leadership position in industry, research and development and business investment will require hard work, intelligent reform of government, and policies that keep us attuned to the nuances of our exploding global marketplace. Fortunately and not surprisingly, our American creativity and innovation stands ready to answer the competition and maintain global economic strength. WORD COUNT: 570