Montana Boom Continues

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA (AP) – Montana’s economy continues to be highlighted by steady growth and low unemployment.

For the sixth straight month, the statewide jobless rate has come in under 3 percent. This, along with 4.9 percent growth in nonfarm labor income in 2006, shows that Montana’s economy continues to grow steadily, said University of Montana economist Paul Polzin.

“In 40 years of analyzing Montana’s economy, I cannot remember unemployment numbers this low, especially combined with strong income growth,” Polzin, director of UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, said in a news release Tuesday.

Montana’s economy grew 5.1 percent in 2004 and 4.5 percent in 2005.

“Almost all basic industries of the economy, including mining, manufacturing and agriculture have contributed to the sustained growth,” Polzin said.

Montana Chamber of Commerce President Webb Brown said the outlook report confirms what his members have been telling him: that business in the state is good.

In light of current conditions, the UM bureau recently revised its forecast to predict 4.8 percent growth in 2007, up from the January forecast of 4.3 percent. The bureau also predicts 4.3 percent growth in 2008.

“The new data strengthens our current forecast and makes us more confident that growth in 2008 will exceed 4 percent,” Polzin said.

The only dark cloud Polzin sees on the horizon deals with workforce issues throughout Montana.

“Employers are continually telling us their difficulty in finding skilled and well-trained employees,” he said. “Unless this changes, workforce challenges will only get worse.”

Polzin and Martin Regalia, chief economist and vice president for economic and tax policy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will present their state and national economic forecasts Thursday in Whitefish at Grouse Mountain Lodge in conjunction with the 2007 Governor’s Cup golf tournament.

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