Montana Economy Slowed In 2016, BBER Reports

Jan 24, 2017

Montana's economy slowed significantly in 2016, and continued slow growth is projected for this year. That's according to new numbers released today by economists at the University of Montana.

UM's Bureau of Business and Economic Research unveiled the numbers in Helena.

Patrick Barkey, Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research
Credit Courtesy UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research

Director Patrick Barkey says wage growth in Montana dropped by about 2.5 percent between 2015 and the first half of last year. Barkey expects similar slow wage growth this year.

Wages are being dragged down by a continued slump in prices for oil, natural gas and coal. Other commodities, Barkey says, are a mixed bag:

"The lumber prices are doing very well, there's been some rebound in demand nationally, with better building rates, but the ag commodities not so well. Ag commodities are at or near five year lows, particularly wheat and barley. Copper prices are up off the floor, they were at their five year lows last year."

Barkey says the bright spot in Montana's economy last year was consumer spending, driven mostly by people willing to take on more debt, after shying away from borrowing money during and immediately after the 2009 recession.