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UM researchers prepare for release of annual economic report

Missoula Housing
Posted at 9:21 AM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 11:21:20-05

MISSOULA — University of Montana researchers are preparing to release their annual report on the state's economy, coming off a year when business was turned upside down by the pandemic.

But they told MTN News that there's better information going into 2021, and questions to answer about what new trends could remain after COVID-19.

Is it hard to forecast right now or, just a kind of a challenge?

“Most forecasters begin their presentation with a review of how last year’s forecast did. Uh, we're going to skip that part this year," explained Bureau of Business Economic Research director Patrick Bakey. "OK, everybody knows it was a terrible forecast. No one saw this coming.”

Barkey and his colleagues say the 2021 Montana Economic Report will still address traditional topics, like tourism, agriculture and manufacturing. But after last year, there are many new trends to track, especially the outlook for business depending on interactions among people.

"I'm thinking of things like higher education. I'm thinking of things like travel, thinking things like art, entertainment and these kind of things. Those are our ones to watch," Barkey said. "They weren’t so much impacted by the virus per se. But they are impacted by our fear of contracting the virus.”

That fear led to some major changes this year, especially when it came to the use of technology and remote working, and the still-to-be measured long term impacts from relocation on Montana real estate.

Barkey is confident about how some sectors will rebound but says changes could linger for others.

“So, restaurants are going to make a comeback. But there are a number of things, be it technology, social behavior, the way governments work. There's so many things that have changed and it's difficult. But we're going to do our best to try to assess.”

BBER will go virtual with this year's report presentation, with a two-day economic summit on Feb. 1 and Feb. 2.

Registration for the seminar is $70 for individuals and $50-per person for groups of five or more, along with bonuses for attendees. You can register for the event here.