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Flathead’s Unemployment Rate Inches Up

By Beacon Staff

Flathead County’s unemployment rate rose again in March, to 12.7 percent. The silver lining: It appears the pace in which jobs are being shed is beginning to slow.

The figure is 0.5 percent higher than it was in February, but it follows a three-month period where the number of Flathead County’s unemployed ballooned from 7.3 percent to 12.2 percent. It still marked the eighth straight month Flathead’s unemployment rate has increased, according to figures from the state’s Department of Labor and Industry.

Northwest Montana has been hit hardest in the state by recession, with lumber mills suffering from the housing slowdown shuttering and some of the area’s largest employers cutting payrolls. Flathead’s unemployment rate is now third highest in Montana, behind neighboring Lincoln (16.6 percent) and Sanders (16 percent) counties. Fallon County, which borders North Dakota, has the lowest rate at 3 percent.

Statewide, the unemployment rate rose slightly in March, to 6.1 percent from 6 percent a month earlier. That’s well below the national average of 8.5 percent.

Labor Commissioner Keith Kelly says he hopes the small increase in Montana’s unemployment rate is a sign that the state’s economy is stabilizing.

Highest Unemployment Rates in Montana for March, by County:

Lincoln – 16.6
Sanders – 16
Flathead – 12.7
Mineral – 11.8
Granite – 10.6
Big Horn – 10.4
Glacier – 9.8
Lake – 9.4
Ravalli – 9.2
Powell – 9

Source: Montana Department of Labor and Industry

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