Fur traders began operating in the Idaho country in the early years of the 19th century. However, by the 1840s, Idaho’s fur resources were largely depleted and the fur trade was in decline. After the discovery of gold at Pierce in 1860, mining became the principal economic activity; it remained so until the last years of the 19th century. The construction of railroads across Idaho in the 1880s spurred the expansion of mining and later the development of lumbering on a large scale. Initially, farming and ranching developed in Idaho to supply food to the mining camps. Beginning early in the 20th century, with the construction of federal and private irrigation projects on the Snake and other rivers, agricultural production greatly increased.
In the 1970s manufacturing surpassed agriculture in the value of goods produced. Farming and ranching still provide important revenue, especially outside the major urban centers. The mining and forestry industries remain major employers, especially in the northern part of the state. About 718,000 people held jobs in Idaho in 2008. Of those the largest share, 34 percent, worked in the diverse services industries, doing such jobs as working in restaurants or programming computers. Another 22 percent worked in wholesale or retail trade; 18 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 10 percent in manufacturing; 6 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; 8 percent in construction; 18 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 20 percent in transportation or public utilities; and 0.7 percent in mining. In 2007, 5 percent of Idaho’s workers were unionized. "Idaho" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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