By Chris Woodward, The Center Square

Affordable housing, wages, even an unwillingness to work are why experts say Montana businesses struggle to hire workers.

Montana is among the states where employers are struggling the most in hiring this year. Wallethub, a personal finance website, ranks Montana fourth out of all the states plus the District of Columbia. 

The list comes at a time when the labor force participation rate is only 62.4%, and in order to determine which states are ranked where, Wallethub examined the rate of job openings for the latest month as well as the 12 months. 

Tanner Avery, communications and outreach director for Montana-based Frontier Institute, says a major reason businesses are struggling to find workers is that “Montana’s most in-demand counties and cities frequently either outright prohibit or penalize affordable multifamily starter homes like duplexes.” As a result, the lack of housing has forced workers to leave their communities in search of affordable places to live.

“Fifty percent of zoned land in thirteen of Montana’s most in-demand counties either outright prohibit or penalize affordable multifamily starter homes like duplexes,” says Avery. “Among the major cities assessed in the Montana Zoning Atlas report, two-family housing is on average welcomed by-right on just 41% of zoned land, while 3+ family housing is on average welcomed on only 29%.”

National experts offer different takes as to why employers in some states are struggling more than others. 

“They are not offering high enough wages,” says Daniel Schwab, assistant professor of economics and accounting at College of the Holy Cross. “The relatively low unemployment rate makes workers confident they can find another job if they quit.”

Joelle Saad-Lessler, Ph.D., associate dean of undergraduates at the Steven Institute of Technology’s School of Business, thinks Americans might be “re-evaluating” their willingness to work. They may be due to concerns about COVID or the desire to care for their kids more.

“Perhaps they can live off the benefits they have received during the pandemic and do not have to pay for rent yet if the rent moratorium still holds,” says Saad-Lessler. “But it is not 100% clear why the labor force participation rate is still so low.”

If the labor force remains low, it could cause more problems for the economy. Raymond J. Keating, chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, says the U.S. faces a long-term challenge on the labor front with aging people. 

“Higher levels of immigration would help not only to meet the need for workers but also would boost the country’s slowdown in entrepreneurship,” says Keating. 

Only Alaska, West Virginia, and Louisiana outranked the Treasure State.


You must be logged in to post a comment.