By John Seiler | For Watchdog.org
The study projects continued sluggish national economic growth averaging just below 2 percent a year.
This is a little lower than the expectations of other forecasters, such as one presented by Chapman University, which projected growth between 2 percent and 3 percent.
In either case, growth is not at the robust levels seen in prior recoveries, such as the 5 percent to 7 percent clip enjoyed during the Reagan recovery of the early 1980s.
For Montana, according to the UM study, the good points are strong income growth, a healing jobs market, recovering housing prices and robust investment in energy.
On the negative side, spring and summer have been very dry, retail sales remain weak and global economic concerns are affecting energy and other commodity prices.
A drought-monitor graph showed how, although the drought isn’t affecting Montana as badly as other regions of the country, it’s still rated “D2 Drought – Severe” in several places in the country.
As to the Montana energy boom: Is it real and going to last? Or a steppe chimera?
A good sign is that the number of new rigs in the state boomed in the mid-2000s, averaging 25 a year, then dropped to near zero in 2009, but jumped back up to 20 in 2012.
Montana oil permits also more than doubled in the first half of 2012, compared with the same period in 2011.
The divisions in the state also are shown by the new employment numbers. Job growth is at more than 8.1 percent — gusher levels — for most parts of eastern Montana, but it’s at levels of 5.1 percent or less in other parts of the state.
Not surprisingly, strong growth continues in mining and energy production. Wood products are flat. Agriculture and “other manufacturing” are mixed. Transportation is recovering. Travel and tourism are having a weak recovery. Federal civilian employment is declining. And federal military employment is unknown.
The change in nonfarm earnings in Montana is expected to continue at a weak pace of from 2.1 percent a year to 2.4 percent for 2012-15.
As with the rest of the country, Montana seems to be awaiting what happens with the European economic malaise — and with the results of what the voters decide at the national level in November and beyond.