Montana and it's neighboring states hit record double-digit unemployment figures in the 1980's with the recession of the timber and mining industries. Those numbers have slowly been receeding over the past two decades, helped by an aging work force and a booming tourist economy.
"This is actually the biggest economic story of our time and we don't quite grasp it because it is 15 years in the making," stated Larry Swanson, economist and director of the O'Connor center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.
The U S Department of Labor has reported that the mountain West region, which includes eight states along the Rocky Mountains, has the lowest overall unemployment rate in the nation of 3.4 percent. Montana, is reported to be as low as 2 percent and is seeing people moving in to build second homes and as copper prices go up, higher paying jobs as well.
What the area is facing is a shrinking pool of workers, newspapers carry page after page of help wanted ads. Some cities have considered hiring underqualified people in positions of department managers and training them on the job. Jobs that are tyipically lower paying are facing compition from higher paying jobs and in some places, have resorted to paying bonuses of hundreds of dollars or more for finding workers.
Some such as John Francis, owner of a Montana McDonald's has even adveritsed for employess offering $10 an hour. The only calls he stated he received for his offer, were from other business owners, complaining that they might have to raise their own wages to compete.
"You get into these 2 percent and less unemployment rates and you are moving into a seller's market with the seller being the worker," stated Swanson.
That's correct... for all the whining that they had not expected this tight a labor force until at least 2012, this is a capitalistic country. When wages rise, it is not the fault of the employeee to look elsewhere and want to make more money. Then, strange as it may seem to some of those businesses, it is a market based on what the potential employee wants to make and if they want that person, they would be forced to pay more than the competition.
I know of no company, when faced with a glut of potential employees, that will offer more than the going rate for wages............ in the capitalistic mode, they will find someone who will work for the low wages, there are plenty looking. This just happens to be one of those times where the companies will have to pay a bit more than they want to, in order to keep employees. That is just the way it works here.