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KUNR Public Radio is a proud partner in the Mountain West News Bureau, a partnership of public media stations that serve Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. The mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues of the Mountain West.

The strengths of state economies in the Mountain West are all over the map

 An aerial view of the large buildings that make up the headquarters of Micron, a semiconductor company in Boise, Idaho.
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Micron, a semiconductor company based in Boise, Idaho, is one of many high-tech firms in the Mountain West region creating high-paying jobs.

The Mountain West includes some of the country's strongest state economies, according to a new analysis, but the region's overall economic health doesn't extend to every state.

WalletHub, the personal finance website, evaluated states based on 28 economic metrics, such as unemployment rate, entrepreneurship activity, the share of jobs in high-tech industries, and growth in gross domestic product. Utah ranked as the second-strongest economy in the country, trailing only the state of Washington. Colorado ranked 4th and Idaho 6th.

Coastal states used to dominate the rankings, but that’s changed since the pandemic, said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez, “because that's when you really saw different state economies doing different things and adapting differently.”

To that end, some Mountain West states focused on attracting more high-tech companies with high-paying jobs. For Idaho, that played a role in the state’s GDP rising nearly 5% in 2022 compared to 2021. Gonzalez called that year-over-year increase “very high – almost unheard of.”

But not all of the Mountain West’s state economies are as red-hot. Nevada ranked 21st and has the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 5.4%. Montana, which has one of the lowest unemployment rates (2.3%), ranked 25th.

Meanwhile, New Mexico’s economy ranked 36th and Wyoming’s ranked 40th, the latter dragged down by scoring 49th in the percentage of jobs in high-tech industries.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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