BILLINGS – Montana’s unemployment rate dropped sharply in June as many businesses reopened, officials said Friday, but the state’s long-term economic outlook remained uncertain as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rise.
The unemployment rate for Montana dropped almost 2 percentage points in June to 7.1%, the eighth lowest rate in the U.S. The national rate for June was 11.1%.
The number of employed increased by more than 20,000 people, led by hiring in the leisure and hospitality sectors, state officials said.
However, unemployment levels remain roughly 4% below their pre-pandemic levels. That’s equal to about 21,000 jobs.
Health officials Friday reported 137 new confirmed coronavirus cases statewide — the second highest daily total since the pandemic began.
In Yellowstone County, health officials reported a 10th death stemming from an outbreak at a Billings nursing home, Canyon Creek Memory Care, where nearly every resident and most staff members have been infected.
The virus has killed at least 37 people in Montana, with about 40% of those deaths in Yellowstone County.
The number of infections in Montana is thought to be far higher than the 2,366 confirmed cases. Most people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.