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Montana jobless rate hits record low; employers struggle to find help

Montana's unemployment rate fell to 2.8% in December
Montana Unemployment
Posted at 10:24 AM, Jan 26, 2023

BILLINGS - Montana's unemployment rate fell to 2.8% in December, according to a Tuesday report from Gov. Greg Gianforte's office, and with staffing shortages still prevalent around the state, jobs remain bountiful.

Rocky Mountain College accounting professor Cedric Snelling said that staffing shortages are a result of record unemployment.

“It wouldn’t make sense if there was a big pool of people looking for jobs," Snelling said Wednesday. "Yet on the other side, there was a bunch of employers looking to hire. Either there’s a big pool of people who aren’t looking for jobs, or there’s just no one there.”

Snelling has been around long enough to understand the highs and lows of the job market, "I graduated in 2009, in one of the cycles where there was very large unemployment, and it was very difficult to find a job."

The situation couldn't be more different for his current students.

“Graduates now are in a very fortuitous position," Snelling said. "They’re in a position to probably do a job that they not only want to do but receive reasonably good compensation for that."

Gianforte's report also showed that Montana's total employment rose to a record high of 553,000 jobs in December, while the labor force increased to nearly 570,000 workers.

The unemployment rate in Yellowstone County in December was 2.1%, which has left employers in the area, and not just the service industry, struggling to find workers.

"It’s not only a service issue. It’s all over," Snelling said. "I don’t know that there’s any industry that says, ‘hey we're plump full, we’re not seeking out anybody else.'"

Regardless, Snelling said that one thing is certain. Wait a while, and the job market will change.

“It will pass, it will change, and there will become a time where unemployment starts to rise and then it gets too high and there will be people looking for a job that can’t find one,” Snelling said.