With Montana’s economic recovery pacing ahead of the national average, Gov. Greg Gianforte on Tuesday took credit for the gains and blasted Democrats for what he described as reckless spending, resulting in a slow tide of inflation.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Gianforte touched on a range of topics, including the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the resurgence of the Covid pandemic and the state’s job recovery.
Partisan injections played a role in each issue, though Gianforte said the state’s economy was on the rise. He attributed the gains in part to actions he took early on as the state’s first Republican governor in 16 years.
According to Gianforte, Montana’s unemployment rate is the ninth lowest in the country. Since January, unemployment claims have fallen 87% in the state. Montana was also the first to end federal supplemental unemployment benefits and launch a return to work bonus program.
“I’m pleased to say it’s paying off,” Gianforte said. “Our total employment grew by more than 2,100 jobs. Since January, we’ve added more than 8,000 jobs. Our labor participation is at its highest point since January. Montana’s total employment and labor force are at 1% of the pre-recession peak,” he said.
Gianforte added that Montana lost more than 62,000 jobs during the pandemic, something he attributed to the state’s stay-at-home orders and mandatory shut-downs early on during the crisis. He said the state would not take similar action in the future, at least under his watch.
But of the 62,000 jobs lost, the state has recovered 59,000 of them.
“Our jobs recovery rate is third best in the nation,” he said. “As we get our economy going again and get Montanans back to work, there are two elements that still hold us back from a full recovery.”
He named inflation as the leading factor.
“Montanans work hard for what they earn. We’ve seen Montana businesses raise wages to attract workers and hold on to what they have,” he said. “While compensation has grown by 3% since March and June, it’s not going as far because inflation is at a 13 year high.”
Gianforte said over the last year (dating back to the waning days of the Trump administration), gas prices have risen 14% while prices for used cars and trucks have jumped 42%. The cost of food and other basic services are also on the rise, pinching the pockets of the average worker.
“It’s putting a strain on hard working Montana families,” he said. “Even former President Obama’s top economic advisor has been sounding the alarm. The fiscal policy coming out of Washington, D.C. is contribution to inflation. Federal spending is out of control and driving up inflation.”
Under both Republican and Democratic leadership, Congress has passed a number of hefty spending bills. Congress also has passed substantial tax cuts for businesses and the nation’s top earners.
Gianforte didn’t mention either, though he blasted “Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden” for “pushing an alarming $3.5 trillion spending package.”
“It will make inflation worse and make it harder for Montanans to make ends meet,” the governor said. “I urge them to turn off the spigot of out-of-control spending that’s driving up inflation and our national debt. We’re paying the price for inflation now, and Washington is mortgaging the future of our kids and grandkids by passing along a skyrocketing national debt.”