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Montana unemployment drops, wages trail national average

By Will Wadley, KECI Weekend Anchor, wwadley@keci.com
Published On: Jun 21 2013 11:02:04 AM MDT
Updated On: Jun 21 2013 04:00:28 PM MDT
Unemployment chart
MISSOULA, Mont. -

New unemployment numbers out for May found slow, but steady growth in the job market, with Montana’s seasonally unadjusted rate dropping almost half a percentage point to 4.8%.

“Montana has added more than 2,500 jobs in the last two months, continuing the strong employment growth experienced in 2012,” said Labor Commissioner Pam Bucy.  “Montana’s unemployment rate continues to fall, and Montanans are back to work.”

We dug into the numbers and found drops in unemployment, county by county, especially compared to this time last year.

In Flathead County, it fell to 7% from 8.4% in May of last year. Unemployment in Ravalli County fell to 6.2% from 7.3% percent this time last year. In Gallatin County, the rate dropped to 4.5% percent, down from 5.6% last year. In Silver Bow and Missoula Counties, the rate dropped to around 4.8% - almost a full percentage point below the rate last year in May.

Montana has the 13th lowest unemployment rate in the country, but when it comes to actual wages, the state lags far behind the national average.

"We still struggle to have a lot of jobs that pay higher wages,” said Missoula Job Service staffer Saundra Long. “We tend to be a service and retail economy and those jobs don't necessarily pay as well."

The average Montana worker makes about $8,000 a year less than the national average.