Comparing Great Falls’ Economic Data To Rest Of State

This week I received and reviewed some of the latest economic data put out by Patrick Barkey and the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana.

Once again I found it interesting, and a little discouraging to be honest, to see how Great Falls/Cascade County is faring compared to other Montana cities and counties.

Here is some of the info and data:

Tracking economic growth in terms of total wages paid to payroll workers, inflation-corrected, shows the differences in growth in the current economic recovery between the state’s most populous counties, as well as the balance of the state. Since the latest data extend only to the second quarter of 2021, the growth shown in Figure 1 refers to the changes of fiscal year 2021 (July 2020-June 2021) compared to the previous fiscal year.

Figure 1. Growth in inflation-corrected wages, FY2020-21. Sources: U.S. Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Here is Barkey’s brief analysis of what is driving this economic data in Great Falls/Cascade County:

In past years, lower rates of population in-migration and a lower presence in faster growing professional services industries has produced slower growth in Cascade (Great Falls), Lewis and Clark (Helena) and Silver Bow (Butte) counties.

That story changed this year in Lewis and Clark County with the surge of federal spending helping raise total wages in the state’s capital region by $87 million in 2021. Past growth from new facilities, such as Boeing, fell back, while health care, as in so many other parts of the state, saw good growth.

Cascade County’s total wage growth of just under $30 million in 2021 had a bit more headwind, with declines in information (media), accommodations and food and professional business services more than offset by gains in construction, health care and government.

The announcement of the new medical school in Great Falls holds some promise for gains going forward, while the challenges for Montana agriculture weigh more heavily on this urban area.”

You can find more from Barkey’s report here.

Here’s to better times and a great 2022 for Great Falls, with expanding opportunities and prosperity for all of our citizens.

Posted by Rick Tryon

Rick Tryon is an entrepreneur, a singer-songwriter, and is currently serving a four year term as a Great Falls City Commissioner. Helping Montana become an even greater place to live, play and work is Tryon's passion.

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