Montana Public Radio

Researchers: Lewis And Clark County Economy 'More Steady' Than Rest of State

Jan 28, 2020

Researchers say government activity in Lewis and Clark County continues to insulate the area from major economic swings. But an outlook released Tuesday by University of Montana analysts shows wage growth in the area lags behind the state as a whole.

State government makes up 53 percent of the economic drivers in Lewis and Clark County, according to the report from the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research. The federal government is the next biggest economic engine in the area.

Patrick Barkey, director of the university research bureau, says a statewide economic slowdown expected in the coming years won’t be felt as much in Lewis and Clark.

“That’s the way the bird flies here in the state capitol. It’s never as fast and never as slow as the rest of the state. It’s more steady," Barkey says.

The county saw growth in nonfarm earnings of 2 percent in 2019, behind the 2.7 percent growth seen across the state.

In the new report, university researchers highlighted Lewis and Clark County as having fewer families stretching their budget to afford housing. According to researchers, 32 percent of renters and 16 percent of owners in Lewis and Clark County spend more than a third of their income on housing. Across the state 37 percent of renters and 22 percent of homeowners spend more than a third of their incomes on housing.