Western Montana counties considered part of the Columbia Basin are not sharing in the economic boom felt by the Northwest's urban areas, according to a study last year.
The Columbia Basin Socio-Economic Assessment covered 99 counties in a four-state region (Idaho, western Montana, eastern Oregon and eastern Washington) and concluded that more than half are well below the four-state and national averages for the factors assessed, largely based on changing demographics, market shifts and federal land-use decisions. For example: None of the counties exceeds the national per capita income average, and only 50 percent of personal income comes from wage and salary sources; the remainder is from self-employment, investment and transfer payment income.
Despite steady job growth, chronic unemployment exists, in part because of dropping timber harvests. Productivity also lags behind in 87 of 99 counties, where output per job is below the four-state average.