“Montana’s Growth Returns to Earth in 2023” is the overall focus of the annual Economic Outlook Seminar, presented by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) at the University of Montana, will be held in Billings on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at the Northern Hotel, 8 am to 1 pm. This year marks the 49th session of the event which is held in numerous cities throughout the state.

Montana emerged from the pandemic as one of the clear winners among the 50 states in the strength of its economic recovery, but those hectic days of booming growth are behind us today. Lost in the news of inflation, high housing prices and tight labor markets is the growing evidence that Montana’s underlying growth rate has returned to something much closer to its historical average, announces BBER Director Pat Barkey, who will be the primary presenter at the seminar.

The development was not unexpected. The outsized economic stimulus – three separate spending bills, in fact – that were rolled out in 2020 and 2021 were not repeated. Enhanced and extended unemployment insurance benefits were terminated, generous loans and grants to businesses were not repeated, and even suspended student loan payments were reinstituted. And since Montana was a state whose economy opened to ordinary economic activity after the pandemic lockdowns earlier than most, the surge in business activity from the snap back in people-facing commerce has tapered earlier as well.

Even at a more subdued rate of growth, the breakdown of Montana’s economic performance last year by industry continues to exhibit broad-based strength. The sectors of the economy that experienced the biggest slowdowns in 2023 (Finance and Business Services and Accommodations and Food) had experienced extremely strong growth the previous year. Two sectors (Health Care and Public Administration) had faster growth in 2023 than in 2022.

Among questions that will be addressed is “What would it actually take to power the largest economy in the world within the emissions targets set by our leaders, and what is the most effective way to carry that out?”

An additional question is “What would it mean for Montana? Our colder climate and our large geography have combined to make us one of the most energy-dependent states in the country. We are also a state that mines metals and minerals, and the green energy shopping list for what we could produce is potentially a long one. A dose of reality is what we think the political battles over green energy need, and that’s exactly what the 2024 Economic Outlook Seminars aim to provide.”

BBER economists and industry experts will highlight the latest economic trends for local economies, the state of Montana, and the U.S.

BBER will hold its first seminar in Helena on Jan. 23; in Great Falls on Jan. 24, in Missoula, Jan. 26, in Butte on Feb. 1, Kalispell on Feb. 6, Lewistown, March 12, and in Havre on March 13.


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