Montana’s August unemployment rate was released today and is still hovering at 3.9 percent, where it has been throughout the summer. Montana Department of Labor Senior Economist Barbara Wagner was asked if there were any indications of wage increases. She said signs are good for Missoula.

"Montana's average wage did increase last year up to $40,735," Wagner said. "The growth was really high over in the northwest portion of the state around Missoula. In that area of the state you increased your wages by 2.2 percent, that's a nice gain in wages."

During the recession, Western Montana floundered while the eastern part of the state’s oil and gas economy boomed. Wagner says the trend has now reversed.

"Over the last four years, wages in the Missoula region have increased by $4,700," Wagner said. "2016 was sort of the opposite of what happened during the recession in Montana: where the eastern portion of the state is still struggling with the oil and gas bust, whereas the western portion of the state has been going gangbusters."

Wagner says there is good news for Montana overseas as well. She says an improving economy in China will help Montana exporters as it is a major market for Montana products.

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