By Martin Kidston

Wages across Montana have increased on average 3.2 percent over the past 10 years, outpacing similar gains on the national level, according to a new report released this week.

The figures, presented in the Montana Department of Labor and Industry's annual Labor Day report, placed the state 5th in the nation for overall economic growth despite declines in the state's energy sector.

Job growth and wages have emerged as one of the top issues in this year's race for governor, with both candidates looking to capitalize off the latest figures.

Republican Greg Gianforte has already placed a radio spot in Seattle and Denver inviting Montanans “stuck in rush hour traffic” to come home and bring a job with them.

“Montana has languished for long enough at the bottom of the nation in wages and our kids have become our most precious export,” Gianforte said in a statement released this week. “With good leadership and the right mindset, we can use the tools at our disposal to create a high-wage economy in Montana.”

Citing the state's strong economic gains, Bullock has charged Gianforte with twisting the statistics. In Missoula on Wednesday, the governor said the data presented in the latest report shows Montana is moving in the right direction.

“More Montanans are on the job and earning higher wages than ever before in our state’s history,” Bullock said. “Through innovative partnerships across the state, we're equipping the next generation of Montana workers with the knowledge, skills and experience to succeed and take our economy to new heights.”

According to the report, the average payroll wage in Montana grew 3 percent in 2015 to $40,065. The state has outpaced the U.S. economy in personal income growth in eight of the past 10 years, placing the state 9th for the fastest personal income growth since 2005.

The state also saw real wage gains of 2.9 percent, the fastest ever recorded in the state. Real wage growth suggests that wages are growing faster than inflation.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at