New federal estimates indicate the long-awaited explosion Idaho's economy experienced in 1988 helped its once-declining population rebound.

The Census Bureau reported that Idaho population last July 1 was back over 1 million and just fractionally below the count three years earlier when the state was beginning to slip into one of its most severe declines in history.The latest federal estimates confirmed projections by Andrus administration analysts that Idaho's population, along with its economy, was finally back on the rise.

Idaho was one of only 11 states with populations below the levels of three years ago in the new census report, but state economists last month projected that in the past six months the population has climbed above the mid-1985 level and is on a steady course of growth averaging over 0.5 percent a year.

The state's population hit its peak during the last half of 1985.

During the next two years, however, the faltering economy resulted in Idaho actually losing population for the first time in over two decades.

Over 10,000 people left the state in both 1986 and 1987, more than could be offset by the birthrate so that by mid-1987, the state's population had actually slipped below 1 million, returning to the level of mid-1984.

But the seeds of the current economy recovery were planted 18 months ago, and as the resurgence grew into a boom out-migration began declining dramatically and the size of the workforce soared as new jobs were created and old ones revived.