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Finding workers remains a problem for Montana

45th Economic Outlook Seminar began in Helena
Posted at 3:26 PM, Jan 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 12:33:57-05

HELENA — The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana began its 45th annual Economic Outlook series in Helena on Tuesday.

The theme for this year’s event is “Finding Good Workers: New Challenges, New Solutions.”

The economic growth in Montana featured strong hiring and falling unemployment rates, which may be good to some, but may also be bad for businesses trying to grow.

“I think the big challenge is for businesses, who are trying to grow, and who are seeing the number of qualified applicants drop precipitously, and have had to actually make some very painful adjustments,” says Patrick Barkey, Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana.

The unemployment rate for the State of Montana sits at about 3.4%. That rate is 2.8% in Lewis and Clark County. Local Montana businesses are struggling to find employees, but where there is tech, there is economic growth.

“Tech is not universal throughout the state. But in those areas where tech has a presence, those tend to be the faster-growing parts of the state,” says Barkey.

Half of all the popular jobs right now on Indeed are tech jobs. Barkey’s research shows that 63 percent of the GenZ population wouldn’t take a construction job, even if it paid above $100,000. Yet, many are still moving to Montana to get away from expensive cities.

“The Mountain West is really where all the action is, in terms of growth. It used to be California. California has gotten very expensive. People are leaving California. People refer to the Mountain West as the third coast. Those employers, if they’re smart, are gonna wake up and realize that they have to do more than post their job ads. They have to start talking to younger people to really dispel that whole myth of what those kinda jobs, what the future of those jobs is because I think the future is really bright,” says Barkey.

The research group will continue their statewide tour with another session in Great Falls.