Front Page: Logging And Literature In Forks

Sep 21, 2012
Photo by Konrad Roeder / Wikimedia Commons

This is Front Page, our new segment featuring conversations with journalists taking a closer look at the people, issues and events shaping lives across the Pacific Northwest. Today we’re way out west, western Washington that is, where the twilight is unusual. The town of Forks. Here’s our news director John Paxson.

Greg Dunlap / Flickr

Washington’s idled construction industry continued to show signs of life in August. Nonetheless, the state’s jobless rate still rose slightly. Overall Washington lost 1,100 jobs last month. The new unemployment rate announced Wednesday is 8.6 percent -– up a tenth of a percent from July.

Oregon's minimum wage will go up 15 cents in January to $8.95 an hour. State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian made the announcement Monday in Springfield.

Fires Not All Bad For Local Economies

Sep 14, 2012
U.S. Forest Service

Crews continue to make progress on several wildfires in central Washington. State health officials say the air is smoky enough around Wenatchee to be unhealthy for people with sensitive respiratory systems.

The latest community college enrollment numbers may hold a clue to what’s happening in the Northwest’s economy. Some two-year institutions in the region are seeing the first decline in class registration since the recession. Correspondent Jessica Robinson has more.

Gregg M. Erickson

Oregon lawmakers got some short term good news Wednesday: state revenues are predicted to be a little higher than previously thought. But the long-term outlook remains gloomy.

Wash. Jobs, Employment Numbers Contradict

Aug 15, 2012
Washington State Employment Security Department

Washington’s jobs and employment numbers for July contradict each other in the latest figures released Tuesday. Washington gained 5,000 jobs last month. Yet the state’s unemployment rate crept up to 8.5 percent.

Washington Liquor Prices Up 17% Over Last Year

Aug 14, 2012
Photo by Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington liquor prices were 17 percent higher on average in June, compared to the same month a year ago. The state Department of Revenue says sales declined in the first month private retailers could sell spirits in Washington. The drop is partially a result of bars and restaurants stocking their shelves in May.

Malheur County: Lots Of Land, Very Few Jobs

Aug 8, 2012
Photo by David Benbennick / Wikimedia Commons

Malheur County has the highest poverty rate in Oregon and the tenth highest in the U.S. Oregon Public Broadcasting's Amanda Peacher spoke with some of the county’s low-income residents, and filed this report on how they’re making ends meet.

Northwest Silver Mines To Remain Under Separate Ownership

Aug 7, 2012
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

Two of the most productive silver mines in the Northwest will remain under separate ownership after several weeks of corporate wrangling.

Oregon's Economy Continues Uneven Recovery

Jul 31, 2012

Oregon's economy showed mixed recovery in May. Most of the state's metropolitan regions continued to struggle, but the Portland area showed real progress. KLCC's Jes Burns reports.

The University of Oregon's Regional Economic Index for May found that Portland outperformed the rest of the state. Oregon Economic Forum Director Tim Duy says that area is once again growing at the average rate of the last 14 years.

Northwest News Network

Oregon has been the most aggressive state in distributing federal funds aimed at preventing foreclosures. The state has tapped into nearly half of the $220 million it received under the “Hardest Hit” program. That's a higher rate than any of the other 17 states and Washington, D.C., that were awarded the funds.

Photo by Anna King / Northwest News Network

Drought that’s sizzling the rest of the nation has largely left the Northwest states alone. Furthermore, the Midwest’s farmers’ misfortune is actually benefiting farmers here. That’s because grain prices are raising because of the Heartland’s decimated yields. Correspondent Anna King has this report from central Washington’s grain country.

Wheat stubble, grain elevators and whole lot of wide open – that’s Connell, Washington.

Bureau of Economic Analysis

New figures out Friday show the U.S. economy is growing at a slower pace than previously thought. That's due in part to weak consumer spending and a rise in imports.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Washington has gained back more than half the jobs it lost during the Great Recession. The state reached that benchmark last month with the gain of 10,000 new jobs.

Even so, Washington’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in June at 8.3 percent. That’s because the universe of people actively looking for work is also growing.


Two aerospace companies plan to expand their operations in Washington. Gov. Chris Gregoire made that announcement Monday from the Farnborough Air Show in London. But the news highlights a gap between the legions of unemployed and the skills they need for many new jobs.

Visitor 7 / Wikimedia Commons

Washington’s economy remains essentially flat. That’s the takeaway from Washington’s quarterly revenue forecast out Wednesday. It shows an increase of about a $150 million through the current two-year budget cycle.

That slight uptick in projected revenues is mostly due to legislative policy decisions this year like fund transfers, not the economy.

Wash. Employment Security Dept.

The latest jobs report for Washington state contains a paradox. It shows strong job growth in the private sector. But at the same time, the state unemployment rate also rose.

Washington's Employment Department Wednesday reported a May jobless rate of 8.3 percent, up slightly from the revised 8.2 percent rate of April.

State labor economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman said in a conference call that the higher unemployment rate was caused primarily by once-discouraged workers resuming their job hunts.

Non-farm payroll employment added a healthy 6,900 jobs in May, the most the state has added in one month since January of last year.

Oregon's gross domestic product grew by 4.7 percent last year, that's the second biggest increase seen in all states.

Gross domestic product is defined as the value added by production, so the wages of employees; the profits of businesses; and the taxes paid to governments.

In Oregon, the GDP of the construction sector, the education sector and health all grew by about 4 percent.
But Josh Lehner of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis says it's the 15 percent increase in the high tech manufacturing sector that pushed the state to the top of the growth chart.

Wash. Shoppers React To Liquor In Grocery Stores

Jun 1, 2012
Photo by Ashley Gross, KPLU / Northwest News Network

The state of Washington has officially bid good riddance to its state run liquor stores. About five times as many stores will now sell hard liquor, and the new law that went into effect Friday means shoppers can head to supermarkets to buy vodka or rum. It’s a welcome change for some people, but not for everyone.

Shoppers gave their reactions outside of a Costco warehouse in Seattle.

Alyssa Royse was loading up bottles.

"I came here just to by liquor. We've got tequila, vodka, gin and of course vermouth."

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Washington retailers are getting ready for the 78 year old state monopoly on liquor sales to end this Friday. It’s not yet clear what privatization will do to the price of alcohol in Washington. One entity with a big stake in the matter … is the state of Idaho.

Some of Idaho’s most profitable state-run liquor stores just happen to be along its Northwestern border.

Jared Tatro: “And when we went up to visit those stores, we look at IDs, we’re looking at license plates,  they’re coming from Washington.”

Alaska Airlines Tries Do-It-Yourself Luggage Tagging

May 25, 2012
Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is trying out a new luggage-tagging system at SeaTac Airport. It relies on customers using new kiosks to weigh their own bags and print out and attach labels. Travelers still must drop off luggage with agents and show I.D. But airline spokeswoman Bobbie Egan says the change should save some time. She says Alaska and its sister carrier Horizon tried out the system last year in Bend.

West Coast Gas Prices Higher Than Other Regions

May 24, 2012
tinatinatinatinatina/ Flickr / Northwest News Network

Gas prices nationwide have been dropping but not in the Northwest. In fact, this Memorial Day weekend, the region's gas prices are among the highest in the nation.

Gas in Washington and Oregon is selling above $4.20 per gallon. It's cheaper in Idaho. But all three states are well above the national average of $3.68 per gallon. The U.S Department of Energy says oil supplies on the West Coast are the lowest they've been since the 1999. Several California oil refineries are offline. And Washington's Cherry Point BP refinery hasn't fully recovered from a fire there in February. Denton Cinquegrana is an editor at the Oil Price Information Service. He says the Northwest just doesn't have the supply routes that other parts of the country have.

Photo credit: Wikimedia user M.O. Stevens / Wikimedia Commons

Oregon's economy is recovering slowly but steadily according to the latest forecast from state economists. But not all parts of the state are along for the ride.

Some economic indicators are looking up in Oregon. That's according to state economist Mark McMullen. But he told state lawmakers that even though the pace has been slow statewide, it's even worse once you get away from the Willamette Valley and the Columbia Gorge.

Graph by Oregon Office of Economic Analysis

Oregon lawmakers got so-so news from the state's economist Tuesday. Revenues are predicted to remain mostly steady over the rest of the budget cycle.

The latest projection of state income tax collections is down slightly since the last forecast. But the drop was offset by a series of budget actions that lawmakers took earlier this year.

State economist Mark McMullen told a legislative panel that Oregon's economic recovery is still on track. It's just slow.

Central Oregon Considered For Drone Testing Area

May 18, 2012

For years now, the US military has flown unmanned drones over hotspots like Iraq and Afghanistan. Drones gather intelligence and at times conduct attacks on the battlefield. But here at home, drones have largely been absent from American skies. That however is about to change. The Federal Aviation Administration is preparing to select 6 areas throughout the US for drone testing. And as OPB's David Nogueras reports, there’s an effort underway in Oregon to compete for one of those spots.

Photo credit: Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Harry & David will be bringing its seasonal call center back to Eugene this year. They'll employ 700 to 800 people from November through mid-December.

Harry & David shut down their Eugene call center in 2010 and 2011, when it was going through financial hardship.

Darren Prescott is Vice President for Customer Care. He says the company tried outsourcing.

Photo Courtesy of Alaska Airlines

The Federal Aviation Administration restricts flights to and from the D.C. area. But it has now authorization for eight non-stop flights from Western cities to Reagan National. Senator Ron Wyden says it'll be good for business.

Idaho's Rare Earth Minerals On The Radar

May 2, 2012

China’s stranglehold on the world’s rare earth mineral supply has re-ignited interest in Idaho. The state’s rare earth minerals run through environmentally sensitive lands. Bonnie Stewart has the story.