Gallatin County’s economy is on fire! According to this article, published in The Belgrade News on August 8th, Gallatin County, Gallatin County added over 69% more jobs than the next closest county (Flathead) during 2012-2013 fueled by big growth in the construction sector. Overall opinion of the economy is positive.
Researchers optimistic about state economy – The Belgrade News: Local News by Hannah Stiff 8-8-14 The Belgrade News
It doesn’t take a room of business people and economists to tell you the economy is rebounding in the Gallatin Valley.
But those people did it anyway at the Montana Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Outlook meeting Tuesday. The theme of the meeting was “Manufacturing a Better Montana.”
“If we’re talking about the Bozeman economy, we should be breaking out the party hats,” University of Montana Director of Economic Research Patrick Barkey said.
Barkey went on to talk about how Gallatin County had the most job growth across the state with more than 2,500 jobs being added in 2012-2013. Flathead County was next with about 1,100 jobs added in the same time period. Silver Bow and Yellowstone counties had nearly stagnant numbers.
“You’ve got a much, much stronger recovery particularly in the last year and a half,” Barkey said. “Particularly because of construction.”
In real wages, the construction industry grew to almost $24 million in 2012-2013 in Gallatin County. That number eclipses wages paid in other industries like manufacturing, retail, real estate and accommodations and food. Wages in those industries was less than $10 million each.
In Montana, housing growth peaked in 2004. Before the recession officially started in 2007, there was already a 20 percent decline in housing starts statewide.
National trends are not as optimistic as the Gallatin County’s recovery, Barkey said. Low-paying and high-paying job recovery on the national stage is rebounding much faster than mid-paying jobs. The disparity represents what Barkey called an “unbalanced recovery.”
The low unemployment rates are also a false indicator of the health of the economy. Barkey said though unemployment figures are low compared to peak recession times, people are taking part-time jobs while hoping for full-time employment.
Glenn Oppel, Government Relations Director for the Montana Chamber of Commerce cited a 2013 survey completed by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank to talk about the health of the economy.
According to the survey, 47 percent of businesses saw increased sales in 2013. Forty-four percent of survey-takers said the number of full-time workers they employ is rising.
“Montana businesses feel very optimistic going into this year,” Oppel said.
Fifty-one percent of Montana businesses said at the end of 2013 that they feel optimistic about the business climate in the state. So far this year, 72 percent of survey respondents feel “somewhat optimistic” about the business outlook for the year. Only 13 percent of respondents said they feel “somewhat pessimistic” about the business forecast for the year.
Despite the positive outlook, manufacturers in Montana see challenges at the national level including the sluggish growth of the broader economy, frustration with political processes and oppressive taxes and healthcare policies.
According to the most recent University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research survey on manufacturing, 90 percent of Montana manufacturing businesses expect to keep current employment levels. Less than 10 percent of manufacturers expect declines in production, prices and sales in the coming months.
Forty-percent of manufacturers are planning major capital expenditures in 2014. According to the UM survey, the manufacturing outlook for 2014 is positive with expectations of higher sales, increased profit and increased production.
Despite the optimism over the manufacturing economy, challenges persist. The number one challenge identified by manufacturers in Montana is health insurance costs. Next on the list, manufacturers worry about workers compensation rates and shortages of qualified workers.
Montana manufacturers reported that they do not fear foreign competition.