Seasonal Layoffs Slow Job Growth Across Montana

Flathead County's non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.1 percent in August

By Beacon Staff & Associated Press

Job growth slowed across Montana last month and the state’s unemployment rate rose slightly, according to the latest figures released Friday from the Department of Labor and Industry.

Montana’s unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in August, an increase of one-tenth of one percent from July. Retail trade and transportation sectors lost employment on a seasonal basis last month, stalling job gains made in recent months.

Total employment, which includes payroll employment plus agricultural and self-employed workers, declined by 1,008 jobs in August, but has still posted strong over-the-year job growth of roughly 11,100 jobs.

“Job growth in the first half of 2014 was at a record-breaking pace, with more than 12,000 jobs added since the start of the year. Montana’s economy appears to be returning to a steadier, more moderate pace,” Gov. Steve Bullock said.  “We continue to look forward to a positive year for economic growth.”

Flathead County’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.1 percent in August. The labor force included 44,764 workers and 2,398 unemployed residents. Last August, Flathead’s jobless rate was 6.4 percent.

Lincoln County’s jobless rate dropped to 9.9 percent. There were 7,019 workers and 773 unemployed. At the beginning of the year, Lincoln County’s unemployment rate hit 18 percent, the highest in three years. In August 2013, Lincoln’s unemployment rate was 13.2 percent. From last August to now, Lincoln County has gained about 200 jobs, according to the labor department.

Lake County’s unemployment rate was 6.1 percent with 701 unemployed residents and 10,745 workers.

Glacier County’s jobless rate was 9.9 percent. There were 656 unemployed residents and 5,979 workers.

Big Horn County had the state’s highest jobless rate, 10.3 percent.

To view last month’s county employment figures, click here.

The national unemployment rate dipped to 6.1 percent in August, from 6.2 percent the previous month. Employers added 142,000 jobs, below an average of 212,000 in the previous 12 months.

North Dakota had the lowest rate in the nation, as it has for many years, at 2.8 percent. The state is benefiting from an oil and gas drilling boom. It was followed by three states with 3.6 percent unemployment: Nebraska, South Dakota and Utah.

The biggest job gains were in Texas, which added 46,600 jobs, followed by California, with 27,700 and Michigan, with 17,900.

The Midwest had the lowest unemployment rate among the nation’s four regions, at 5.8 percent. The unemployment rate in the Northeast was 6.2 percent, followed by 6.3 percent in the South and 6.6 percent in the West.

Montana’s jobless rate has decreased by 0.6 percentage points since January and remained between 4.5 percent and 4.7 percent since May.An estimated 12,000 jobs have been created statewide this year.

Payroll employment estimates suggest Montana added 500 jobs in August. Job gains occurred in professional and business services, while retail trade and transportation lost employment on a seasonal basis. The health care sector also posted small job loss, but the losses did not erase the larger job gains posted last month, according to labor analysts.

The labor force decreased slightly by 578 workers, erasing gains from July but remaining 6,000 higher than last year.

This month’s estimates suggest a slowing of job growth from the record-breaking pace posted earlier this year, but final estimates will likely reveal smoother and more consistent growth across all months.

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.1 percent in July, but then decreased by 0.2 percent in August, leaving prices lower over the two month period. Gasoline price declines were the primary cause for deflation in August. The CPI-U increased 1.7 percent over the year.

The August CPI-U figures have particular importance in Montana, as they are used to adjust the state minimum wage for the upcoming year. The new minimum wage will be posted by the Department next month, consistent with Montana’s minimum wage law.  The index for all items less food and energy, referred to as core inflation, increased slightly in July and was unchanged in August, with a 1.7 percent increase over the year ending in August.

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