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MT: Low Unemployment? Not So Much

As in most states, Montana’s job market is one major focal point for politicians, especially in an election year.

Every candidate for the United States Senate and House of Representatives is running ads and pointing fingers at their challenger.  Candidates and PACs are trying to boost their own credibility  and damage or at least limit the credibility of an opponent.

While Montana’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the nation, the picture isn’t as rosy if one looks at labor force participation rates.

The unemployment numbers from the end of September and early October sounded good.  As CNBC, and many others, reported:

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to nearly its lowest level since before the 2007-09 recession, a sign of growing steam in the U.S. labor market recovery.

Montana’s unemployment rate sits at 4.7 percent — tied with Oklahoma and Idaho.  Only ten states have a lower rate, including Wyoming at 4.6, Nebraska and South Dakota at 4.3, and North Dakota at 2.8.  North Dakota’s unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation.

Even though Montana is doing comparatively well in terms of its unemployment rate, an analysis by The Liberty Foundation of America of labor participation since 1999 ranks Montana twenty-seventh.

The labor participation rate—the share of the population in the labor force—has dropped significantly across the U.S. since the recession.  Montana, which finished 2013 ranked No. 27, has faced a similar decline in its labor force participation rate.

The report shows women’s participation rate in Montana has dropped from  five points, from, 64.7 to 59.7 percent; the rate for men has declined almost two points more, from 74.9 to 68.1 percent.  The aggregate total shows a drop of  5.2 percent, from 69.2 in 1999 to 64 percent in 2013.

Featured image: Shutterstock.com 

Michael Mattson

Michael Mattson is State Editor for Watchdog Wire - Montana. He is founder and Executive Editor of The Hellroaring Review, an online literary journal that focuses on very short ("flash") fiction, as well as The Hellroaring Report, a news aggregator focused on the Mountain West and Northern Plains. Contact Michael at Montana@WatchdogWire.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Hell_Roaring

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Categories: Labor / Unions, Must Read
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