Where Does Montana Fit in the High Wage Jobs Puzzle?

April 05, 2017

MISSOULA – University of Montana economist Bryce Ward examines the state’s place in the new geography of jobs in the latest issue of the Montana Business Quarterly.

“All places want to offer high wage jobs, a modest cost of living and an amazing quality of life, but no place can offer all three,” said Ward, associate director of UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “In Montana, low earnings have been an issue, and while the cost of living in Montana is lower than the U.S. level, it is still high relative to income.

“Yet, in spite of these affordability challenges, Montanans still want to live in the state, which speaks to Montana’s quality of life,” Ward said.

Kids who grow up in Montana and go to college in Big Sky Country often feel they must leave the area to find opportunity, he said. Montana faces two problems that reinforce each other: Low wages limit the availability of college-educated workers, but to raise wages for this group, Montana needs to develop a more robust knowledge economy that requires a pool of skilled, creative workers.

“Montana needs to do two things,” Ward said. “It must attract or grow firms that can provide jobs, and it must also develop the resources that allow these firms to attract potential residents.”

The spring 2017 issue of the Montana Business Quarterly includes articles on Montana’s crowded national parks and the high-tech business sector in Montana. There also is an economic Q-and-A session with BBER experts. The magazine has provided accessible and reliable information about Montana’s business and economic climate since 1949.

Established in 1948, BBER is the main research unit of UM’s School of Business Administration. It informs Montanans about the economic climate in which they live and work. In addition to conducting its Economic Outlook Seminars across the state 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 or to subscribe to the Montana Business Quarterly, visit BBER at http://www.bber.umt.edu/ or call 406-243-5113.

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Contact: Scott Hawk, publications director, UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research, 406-243-5113, scott.hawk@business.umt.edu.