(Missoula Current) The U.S. Department of Labor this week said unemployment claims rose to a high not seen in nearly a year, suggesting the country's labor market remains tight – meaning jobs are abundant.

But many unemployed workers aren't taking those jobs.

In the new report, Montana had one of the highest insured unemployment rates in the country, placing it behind only Alaska, Puerto Rico, New Jersey and California. It's too soon to say whether the spike in claims means the labor market is beginning to loosen.

"It is too early to interpret higher continuing claims as a signal of a loosening labor market," Isfar Munir, an economist at Citigroup, told Reuters. "The holiday time is generally not attractive to workers to start a new job, compounded by many firms temporarily closing during the holiday period."

In its September Labor Day report, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry said Montana was “experiencing a booming economy, with more Montanans working that ever before.”

In that report, the state's unemployment rate had fallen 2.3% in 2022, with the number of unemployed Montanans hitting a record low. Economists have said workers are being more selective when seeking jobs.

“That has also reflected into people not finding as many jobs because labor is very reluctant to go back to work unless they are paid more,” University of Denver economist Kishore Kulkarni told ABC. “The reason they need to be paid more, one is of course inflation.”

The hot labor market is good for the economy but makes it harder for the Federal Reserve to confront inflation. The Fed has been steadily boosting interest rates, but some economists suggest that doing so too fast or hitting the breaks too soon could send the economy into recession.

More From Missoula Current