Missoula County unemployment rate at 3.7 percent

A worker navigates a Missoula construction site in late December. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Missoula County added 877 jobs over the last year and its unemployment rate dropped a tick to 3.7 percent, according to figures released by the state on Tuesday.

Montana’s overall unemployment rate held steady at 4 percent over the month of December after dropping .3 percent in November. The national unemployment rate grew .1 percent to 4.7 percent.

“Montanans are starting 2017 with a strong economy that is anticipated to grow in the upcoming year,” said Pam Bucy, commissioner of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. “We expect to see increased growth in rural communities, more Montanans earning higher wages, and more opportunities to fill jobs in high-skilled areas.”

Tuesday’s employment figures come as the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana prepares to release its latest Montana Economic Report.

This year’s report will explore the issues and opportunities facing Montana’s national parks and the challenge of creating high-wage jobs in Montana. It will also examine nine key industry sectors including technology and innovation, real estate and residential construction, energy and logistics, and transportation, among others.

According to the Governor’s Office, the state added more than 4,000 payroll jobs during the last quarter of 2016 when compared to the prior quarter. They included gains in construction, manufacturing and leisure-related industries.

The latest rankings place Missoula County 21st in the state for its rate of unemployment. Roughly 59,700 workers are employed in the county, which added 877 jobs over the prior year.

In comparison, the unemployment rate in Gallatin County stood at 2.7 percent. It added 2,500 jobs over the past year and claims a current employment force of 60,300 workers.

The Missoula Job Service will follow with additional local information this week, an official there said Tuesday.

Gov. Steve Bullock was pleased with the latest statewide figures.

“Montana continues to outperform much of the nation, holding steady at near-historic low levels of unemployment for over a year,” he said. “As we continue to build on our economic strength and create a business climate that attracts, retains, and grows businesses, we’re making it easier for employers all across Montana to create more good-paying jobs.”