Published January 1, 2006 | January 2006 issue
In October, the state's unemployment rate sank to its lowest level in at least 30 years—4.3 percent, less than half the peak rate recorded in 1987. That's a significant benchmark, state economists said, but it's too early to tell whether unemployment will remain low in coming years. For the past five years, the rate has hovered between 4.4 percent and 4.6 percent.
Economists attributed the drop to improvements in the overall economy and a strong home construction market; in the preceding year, Montana added 7,300 jobs, bolstering the labor force by about 1.7 percent. The service sector—leisure and hospitality—gained the most jobs, followed by education, health, and professional and business services. Manufacturing employment remained flat.
In 1976, when the U.S. Department of Labor started its unemployment survey, the joblessness rate was 5.6 percent.