With the onslaught of national news stories about the poor state of the economy, job losses, and the housing market, it is easy to lose sight of what's going on locally. Larry Swanson, a well-known Montana economist and the Director for the Center for the Rocky Mountain West was quoted in the Billings Gazette recently as saying:
"The steady drumbeat of bad news produces a psychology of consumers hunkering down, we need to stay grounded in the fact that we had a lot going when we came into this," Swanson said. "The magnitude of impact in Montana will be lower. We've been through worse."
Swanson, who also spoke in Missoula recently predicts that Montana's economic slowdown will be "shallower" and "shorter" than what is portrayed in the national media.
Swanson gave reasons for his predictions, including Montana's low unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Montana has a 4.8% rate compared to national figures of 6.7. Another factor is that Montana's housing market had a lower rise in home values previously, so values aren't predicted to fall as much as other areas that experienced a huge real estate boom.
This sentiment is echoed by a recent report from Housing Predictor who ranked five Montana cities in their list of the Top 25 Housing Markets for 2009.
So, despite the national media, there are signs for optimism when you look at Montana's future.