Northwest Montana’s Jobless Rates Highest in State

By Beacon Staff

Flathead County’s unemployment rate rose to 8.7 percent in December, the fourth highest unemployment rate of Montana’s counties and nearly double the rate here from December of the previous year.

The county’s December unemployment rate was up from 7.3 percent in November and 4.6 percent in December 2007, according to statistics from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. It was the fifth straight month that Flathead County’s unemployment rate increased.

Northwest Montana as a whole fared poorly in December. The region’s economic strengths – manufacturing, wood products, tourism and home construction – have all been hit hard by the national recession, leading to several mass layoffs in recent months.

December unemployment rates in all of the northwest counties, including Lincoln, Glacier, Flathead, Lake, Sanders, Mineral and Missoula, increased from November. The state’s four highest unemployment rates are also found here: Sanders County at 13.9 percent; Lincoln County at 12.8 percent; Glacier County at 9.2 percent; and Flathead County.

The new numbers are much closer to the national average than the state’s average. Montana’s unemployment rate increased to 5.4 percent in December from 4.9 percent in November. Meanwhile, the national rate increased from 6.8 percent to 7.2 percent over the same time period.

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