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Most industries have been reporting job expansion in 2012 with manufacturing; education/health services; and trade, transportation and utilities showing the strongest percentage job gains.

The government and financial activities sectors have cut jobs. The state's unemployment rate, which remained below 9 percent during the recession, was less than 8 percent by mid-2012.

The Gem State's outdoor recreational activities and natural wonders, including Hells Canyon (the nation's deepest river gorge) and Lava Hot Springs, attract more than 20 million visitors annually, making tourism an important employment sector.

The miles of farmland, trout-filled waters and low-cost manufacturing operations also support employment in Idaho.

After Europeans, such as Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and Americans, such as the Lewis and Clark expedition, started to explore the range, minerals and furs drove the initial economic exploitation of the mountains, although the range itself never became densely populated.

Much of the mountain range is protected by public parks and forest lands and is a popular tourist destination, especially for hiking, camping, mountaineering, fishing, hunting, mountain biking, skiing, and snowboarding.

Other mountain ranges continue beyond those two rivers, including the Selwyn Mountains in Yukon, the Brooks Range in Alaska, and the Sierra Madre in Mexico, but those are not part of the Rockies, though they are part of the American Cordillera.

The Muskwa and Hart Ranges together comprise what is known as the Northern Rockies (the Mackenzie Mountains north of the Liard River are sometimes referred to as being part of the Rocky Mountains but this is an unofficial designation).

The Rocky Mountains were initially formed from 80 million to 55 million years ago during the Laramide orogeny, in which a number of plates began to slide underneath the North American plate.

The angle of subduction was shallow, resulting in a broad belt of mountains running down western North America.

The Rockies vary in width from 70 to 300 miles (110 to 480 kilometers).

Also west of the Rocky Mountain Trench, farther north and facing the Muskwa Range across the trench, are the Stikine Ranges and Omineca Mountains of the Interior Mountains system of British Columbia.

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