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Report Highlights Job, Wage Growth In Montana

Average wages by Montana county.
Average wages by Montana county.

Wage growth in Montana was 6th fastest in the nation over the last decade. That was one among a number or rosey statistics shared by the Bullock administration during its release of the 2019 Labor Day Report, Tuesday.

Gov. Steve Bullock stood in the lecture hall of the Helena College Airport Campus praising Montana’s workforce and economic growth seen in the state since the end of the Great Recession.

"Our economy is strong on Labor Day 2019. It will continue to be strong because of folks like you’ve heard about throughout this presentation, both in this room and across our state."

According to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, Montana's average annual wages increased by $10,000 from 2009 to 2018.

The report notes that the current economic expansion is now the longest in recorded U.S. History.

Bryce Ward, an Economist with the University of Montana and Founder of ABMJ Consulting, says the state’s economy over the last decade has done well.

"Not everywhere and not for every person. Kind of the big picture aggregate is Montana’s economy has been reasonably healthy in the recent past. The big question that we don’t know is, should we assume how healthy we are at this exact moment and how healthy we’ll be in 5 or 6 months, or 12 months from now? Only time will tell."

Ward says economic indicators show that the labor market is strong. But business investment and financial markets may indicate that confidence in the national economy is weakening.

Over the last decade, state data reports that the southwest region of the state has seen the greatest percentage of payroll employment growth, followed by northwest Montana. Central and eastern portions of the state have seen significantly less job growth.

Montana, like other states, is facing a tight labor market as the baby boomer generation retires. Officials say Montana will lean, in part, on people moving to the state to fill the opening jobs. They say the trend of more people retiring than joining the workforce each year could continue through 2025.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Corin Cates-Carney is the Flathead Valley reporter for MTPR.