Montana’s unemployment rate has held steady for most of 2017, and November was no exception. The state's unemployment rate stood at 4 percent last month.
Barbara Wagner, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Chief Economist, says the state’s economy is strong.
“Our unemployment rate is right at the ideal level. This low unemployment rate really helps workers with more job opportunities, but we haven’t slipped too far below 4 percent yet, and that’s actually good for our businesses because it helps them obtain workers that they need to produce their product and provide services,” Wagner says.
Montana’s unemployment rate is right in line with the country’s overall rate of 4.1 percent.
Over the last three months, Montana added about 1,400 payroll jobs.
Wagner says the construction industry is showing strong growth.
“That’s one we’ve been watching a lot since the recession, of course. They had such large job losses during the recession. Construction was slow to come back after the recession, but throughout 2016 and 2017 we’ve had really good job growth in the construction industry.”
Montana only has data on wage growth through the second quarter of this year. What limited data there is, however, is encouraging; wage growth nearly doubled 2016’s pace.
“Fast wage growth is great," Wagner says. "We have real wage growth, which means Montana’s workers are actually earning wage growth above the rate of inflation, and that’s what economists really look for in terms of improving their standard of living. And Montana is achieving that in 2017, so that’s great news.”
Wagner says ongoing state and federal cutbacks have led to some government job losses on the local, state and federal level.