MT economists predict students returning to school could help unemployment numbers

Posted at 8:06 PM, Aug 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 15:24:30-04

Montana economists predict unemployment rates will improve when students go back to school.

Barbra Wagner, chief economist with the Montana Department of Labor and Industries, told MTN that in some rural districts, schools are the biggest employer. Wagner explained that in 2019, Montana public schools employed around 26,000 people.

She said that it increases to almost 40,000 when adding private schools and universities. So, schools reopening allows some parents to return to work, and Wagner said many parents have been at home due to coronavirus concerns.

"We know that there's 100,000 kids whose only parent is in the work force," said Wagner. "So, when schools closed those parents needed to figure something else out right? They had to take time off of work, maybe the kids went to grandma's."

Overall, Wagner said that Montana's economy is recovering well compared to the rest of the United States. She says Montana sits at 7.1% unemployed and the country sits around 10% for the month of July.

However, larger areas like the Flathead Valley that rely heavily on tourism still have a ways to go.

Flathead County's unemployment was at 16% in April and 9% in June.

Wagner said that she predicts it will take a couple of years before Montana's economy is completely recovered.

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