Spotlight: Montana’s Labor Market. It’s Great For Workers
Montana is a great place to live and work. Right now, it's also a great place to get a job. I found an article on Linked In that says Montana is one of the tightest labor markets in America.
What is a Tight Labor Market?
A Tight Labor Market is when there are more job openings than people to fill them. Economists are seeing it more in the Midwest and great plains states than more densely populated areas such as California and New York.
Generally, Montana has really low unemployment. As of writing, we're sitting at 2.3% where the national average is at 3.7%.
What Does That Mean For Montana?
Since the pandemic, Montana has seen it's labor market tighten by 50.1%. That's HUGE.
What Does This Mean for the Montana Workforce?
Actually, it's good news for those of us working. It means that we're probably getting offered higher wages. Montana has seen a 10% average increase in pay from September 2021 to September 2022. The same can not be said for states like California and New York. Their wages only climbed 1.5% in that same time window.
I will say that I've seen higher hourly wages, more sign-on bonuses and more flexibility in working conditions, such as shorter hours or the availability of working at home.
The tight labor market is also the reason things like Electric City Water Park closing for a day happen. They simply don't have good candidates for the lifeguard positions. I imagine that happens a lot when the position becomes more specialized. That would mean an even smaller pool of candidates.
It Also Means a More "Open Mind" When Hiring
What that means is a company that used to have a policy against cannabis use, forced overtime or was against their employees working from home, things like that, might be more flexible.
That's actually really good news for Montanans in the workforce
Since the pandemic, the workforce in general had time to evaluate their lives and the amount of time they were spending at work versus not at work. Priorities change when people are dying horrible deaths all around you.
The American worker is discovering what workers in other countries all over the world already know, time off matters. Time with friends and family matters. Time actually OFF work matters (I'm speaking of not responding to work e-mails after 5pm or finishing your work after hours.). In Europe and France, their workers are required BY LAW to be granted between a month and 6 weeks vacation time a year. Here, that's 2-3 weeks a year framed as a benefit. What a difference.
The American/Montana worker has new priorities and the American/Montanan employers must adapt.
Remember during the pandemic when they blamed the lack of workers on getting our measly government stimulus checks? We, as Americans, got $1,800 extra through a 2-3 year pandemic. I have a friend in Canada who was given a stipend of $1,100 A MONTH for what I want to say was about 2 years. I think this last year has made them all eat their words. I think American workers speaking up when employers would shout from the roof-tops, "No one wants to work anymore!" has worked. My standard reply to someone in Montana who tells me they can't find workers is, "You must still be paying $10 or so an hour. Up your wages and they will come."
Hopefully, we can maintain our control over the workforce long enough that America doesn't fall back into that "work 18 hours a day over 3 jobs and still can't make ends meet" type of situation. Even before the pandemic I feel workers were at a tipping point. It's time to hold on to what is sacred, quality of life, and make it the norm. They're doing it in other countries all over the world, and those same countries are doing just fine.