HELENA — Montana’s unemployment rate dropped in July, but there was an increase in new unemployment applications filed last week, officials said.
The state’s unemployment rate was 6.4% in July, down from the 7.2% in June as the state continued to rebound from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, state officials said Friday. Montana has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S., well below the national unemployment rate of 10.2%.
An increase in hiring was led by the leisure and hospitality sectors, which added 1,400 jobs in July, followed by education and health services, which added 900 jobs.
But unemployment in Montana remains higher than pre-pandemic levels, with about 18,000 fewer jobs.
“More Montanans are returning to work and we’re continuing to provide relief to those who need it most by supporting key industries and businesses to ensure the state stays on the path toward economic recovery,” Gov. Steve Bullock said. “This public health emergency is far from over and we must continue to prioritize the health and safety of all Montanans to ensure our economy stays on the right track.”
While July’s unemployment figures indicate improvement, the number of new applications for unemployment assistance in Montana rose during the second week of August, figures from the U.S. Department of Labor show.
Over 1,800 Montana residents filed for unemployment during the week ending Aug. 15, an increase of 11% from the previous week. The increase comes as the state announced it would provide $400 in additional weekly unemployment assistance, after the $600 weekly payments created under federal coronavirus relief plans ended in late July.
At least 137,000 Montanans have been unemployed at some point since the beginning of the pandemic in March, representing 30% of the total workforce in Montana that is eligible for unemployment benefits.
Health officials on Friday reported 142 new confirmed coronavirus cases statewide, as the number of new confirmed cases has remained steady over recent weeks. The virus has killed at least 89 people in Montana.
The number of infections in Montana is thought to be far higher than the 6,216 confirmed cases because not everyone has been tested and people can be infected with the virus without having symptoms.
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.
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