BBER Study Finds High-Tech Sector Outpaces State Averages for Growth, Wages

February 18, 2016

MISSOULA – Employment and revenues in Montana’s high-tech industry are growing at rates seven times that of the statewide economy, with salaries in the high-tech sector increasing faster than other sectors, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

The high-tech sector expects to add more than 940 net new jobs in 2016 that pay average annual salaries of $56,800 – over twice the median earning per Montana worker, as measured by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

BBER Director Patrick Barkey said the second annual study, commissioned by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance, serves as an important assessment of one of Montana’s fastest-growing and highest-paying industry clusters.

“Growth projected in high-tech businesses significantly exceeds average statewide economic growth,” Barkey said. “Median annual wages are much higher than in other sectors.”

“For the second year running, BBER has found that high-tech is an important and significant contributor to the Montana economy,” said Kyle Morrill, BBER senior economist and director of forecasting. “High-tech provides about 5 percent of total Montana wages while employing roughly 3 percent of the workforce. And high-tech isn’t done: It’s growing at rates faster than the Montana economy as a whole.”

For the second year in a row, the BBER survey found that Montana’s quality of life and high-quality workforce provided significant advantages to doing business in the state.

As these companies ramp up their growth, competition for talented workforce increases, and survey respondents reported that attracting talent and hiring skilled technology workers is their largest impediment to faster growth.

In addition to survey research, BBER also conducted research using data from federal statistical agencies. While these data can only be used as a broad benchmark of high-tech economic activity, they are suggestive of the size of the activity statewide, including businesses who are not members of the alliance. Based on this analysis, BBER concludes that the aggregated responses of HTBA members reported here greatly understate the actual size of industry activity in Montana. While no precise estimate is possible, it is likely that the true size of the industry is two to three times as large as what is reported in the survey results in the study.

The data for this study were collected in fall 2015 by UM BBER’s Survey Research division. The study is available online at http://www.bber.umt.edu/pubs/econ/highTechBusAlliance2016.pdf.

BBER has over 35 years of experience providing a full range of survey services. Highly skilled bureau researchers use advanced data collection systems and techniques to offer broad-based survey services for public and private sector studies including survey development, data collection, analysis and report writing.

BBER is the main research unit of the School of Business Administration at UM. Established in 1948, its mission is to inform Montanans about the economic climate in which they live and work. In addition to conducting its Economic Outlook Seminars across the state at the beginning of each year, BBER researchers engage in a wide range of applied research projects that address different aspects of the state economy, including survey research, economic analysis, health care research, forecasting, wood products research and energy research.

For more information visit BBER at http://www.bber.umt.edu/ or call 406-243-5113.

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Contact: Kyle Morrill, senior economist/director of forecasting, UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research, 406-243-5113, kyle.morrill@business.umt.edu.