Jobless rate improves in Flathead County

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Construction continues in the wet weather conditions on the bypass on Monday, October 26, in Kalispell. According toĘSuperintendent Melvin Nahrgang of LHC Incorporated the wet weather is helping the crews right now because it compacts the dirt and keeps the dust down. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Flathead County’s unemployment rate improved in April, dropping from 6.7 percent in March to 5.4 percent last month.

The county has a current workforce of 43,055 people, according to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.

The jobless rate in surrounding counties improved as well. Lincoln County posted 9.2 percent unemployment in April, compared to 10.5 percent in March. Sanders County posted 6.8 percent in April, a marked improvement from 9.5 percent unemployment the previous month. Lake County improved to 4 percent, compared to 5.6 percent in March.

Montana’s unemployment rate held steady in April, remaining at 3.8 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate decreased by 0.1 percentage points to 4.4 percent. Convergence of the national and state rates is expected as labor markets tighten.

“Montana’s economy is the envy of the nation,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a press release. “Main Street Montana businesses are growing and hiring more workers, and we are coming up with new and innovative ways to make sure employers have the workforce they need.”

Labor and Industry Commissioner Pam Bucy said the state’s low jobless numbers can make it difficult for employers to find the skilled workers they need to grow and expand their operations.

“However, tight labor markets also have benefits for workers because of rising wages and ample job opportunities,” Bucy added.

Total employment levels, which include self-employed and agricultural workers, indicated a decline of 830 jobs over the month. The number of unemployed people increased slightly statewide. Payroll employment declined by 1,100 jobs in April, led by losses in the construction industry. Payroll employment remains over 8,000 higher than April 2016, maintaining above-average employment growth over the past year.

Given the strong growth in employment levels over the last year, the April employment declines seem likely related to delays in seasonal construction hiring, rather than a change in Montana’s economic growth trends, Bucy said.

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