Montana Public Radio

UM Researchers Expect Better Economic Growth In 2018

Jan 23, 2018

University of Montana researchers expect the state’s economy to kick up this year, following a lackluster performance in 2016 and 2017.

Although earnings in Montana grew over the last two years, those earnings fell short of projections made by researchers at UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

In both 2016 and 2017, non-farm earnings, essentially payroll from non-farm work in the state, fell short of expectations by about a percent and a percent and a half, respectively.

Patrick Barkey, director of the BBER, presented the 2018 Montana Economic report in Helena, Tuesday.

"We think there is going to be an improvement in growth over what was a surprisingly weak year that we had this year. We think there is really room for a lot more growth, particularly in the next few years for the state economy.”

Barkey points to weakness in the agriculture industry, a decline in business owner income and a labor shortage as possible limiters of Montana’s economic growth over the past two years.

Recently, Barkey says economic growth tends to focus in urban areas in the west and southwest of the state.

Gallatin County ranks at the top of payroll growth over the last two years. Missoula County and Yellowstone County come in second and third. Central and eastern counties saw declines in growth.

BBER’s report says key growth industries are health care, tourism and tech-related business.