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Montana's labor pool: more workers than anticipated available to fill jobs.

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With Montana's median wage rate over $2 an hour lower than the national median wage rate, it should not be surprising that nearly half of the state's workforce is willing to switch jobs in order to earn more money.

Montana housed 260,900 adult workers in 2008 who were employed and willing to switch jobs or take a second job, or who were unemployed and willing to work, according to BBER's Montana Labor Market Analysis Survey. More than half of these workers said the main reason they were willing to look for a new job was to seek an increase in pay. This makes sense given that Montana's median wage rate was $13.41 an hour compared to the national rate of $15.57. Workers in occupations like the construction trades, which felt the initial wave of the recession in 2008, also were probably motivated to switch jobs.

This labor pool, available to staff business expansions or to replace turnover, is significantly larger than well-known statistics like the unemployment rate would suggest. However, a few labor shortages may still exist in specific occupation categories and labor market areas within the state. The data presented here provide some evidence that there may be localized shortages in some health care occupations. In addition to its surprising size, Montana's available labor supply is diversified across a wide spectrum of occupations. Much of Montana's available labor force is also in its prime working years.

Statewide Available Labor Supply

About 20,700 Montanans work as managers in businesses, nonprofits, or government organizations. This is the largest group of occupational specialties in Montana's available labor supply (Figure 1). Very nearly the same number of available workers--about 20,400--work in construction trades or drilling and mining occupations. If people who are available to work in material moving occupations, like heavy equipment operators or dump truck drivers, are added to the construction and extraction occupations, this combined category would be the largest. Workers in sales, office and administrative occupations, and education round out the top five occupation categories in Montana's available supply.
Figure 2
Montana by Region

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Northwest (Region 1] Lincoln, Sanders, Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli,
Flathead, and Lake

Southwest (Region 2] Granite, Powell, Lewis and Clark, Meagher,
Broadwater, Jefferson, Silver Bow, Deer Lodge, Beaverhead, Madison,
and Gallatin

North Central (Region 3] Glacier, Toole, Liberty, Hill, Blaine,
Phillips, Pondera, Teton, Choteau, and Cascade

Sooth Central (Region 4] Judith Basin, Fergus, Petroleum, Wheatland,
Golden Valley, Musselshell, Park, Sweet Grass, Stillwater, Carbon,
Yellowstone, and Bighorn

Eastern (Region 51 Valley, Daniels, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Garfield,
McCone, Richland, Dawson-Prairie, Wibaux, Rosebud, Custer, Fallon,
Treasure, Powder River, and Carter

Source: BBER Labor Market Analysis Survey, 2008.


Health care occupations deserve special mention when describing the breadth of Montana's available labor supply. About 8,900 people are available in Montana to work in health practitioner and technical occupations. Another 7,100 are available to work in health care support occupations like nurses aids. If these categories are combined, health care occupations would rank 5th largest in Montana's available labor pool. This does not imply that there are no regional shortages of health care workers in the state.

Regional Available Labor Supply

It is important to describe the available labor pool by region, since Montana is such a large state geographically. The state is divided into five labor market areas for analysis purposes (Figure 2). Figures 3-7 provide a graphical description of the size and occupational composition of the available labor supply in each of Montana's five labor market areas.

Two items become apparent when analyzing the regional available labor market charts. First, even though agriculture and forestry are large and vital industries in Montana, relatively few workers in agricultural and forestry occupations are available to staff worker turnover. Farming and forestry workers appear in the top 10 categories of the available labor pool only in Montana's southwestern labor market area (Region 2). Second, health care practitioners do not appear in the top 10 categories of the available labor supply of the southwestern labor market area (Region 2), and health care support workers do not appear in the top 10 categories of the available labor supply of the south central (Region 4) or eastern labor market (Region 5) areas. While these observations do not in themselves prove that a shortage of available health care workers exists in these regions, they are consistent with other reports from health care industry sources.

Age and Education

Montana's available labor force is, on average, in its 30s and 40s. As the baby boomer generation ages, the graying of Montana's available workforce may present businesses and institutions with significant challenges. However, this is not the case today when looking at Montana's statewide available labor supply.

Aging of the available labor pool does appear in specific labor market areas in particular occupational categories. The median age of available transportation and material-moving workers (heavy equipment operators) in Montana's north central (Region 3) and eastern (Region 5) labor market areas is 48 years old, while the statewide median age is 41 years old. This observation is consistent with comments made by construction industry trade organizations about the need to train replacement heavy equipment operators in Montana. Available workers in management occupations in Montana's eastern labor market area (Region 5) are also older (49 years old) than available managers statewide (43 years old).

Montana's 260,900 available workers, when examined as a whole and at the regional level, appear to have attained a level of education that is appropriate for their occupation. Statewide, workers in the available health care practitioner and technical category might appear at first glance to be undereducated. However, readers should keep in mind the large number of licensed practical nurses (LPNs) included in this occupational category. LPNs require an associate's degree. There are slightly more available LPNs in this category statewide than there are registered nurses or physicians.

John Baldridge is BBER's director of survey development.

BBER conducted this survey for Montana Department of Labor and Industry from January through December 2008. The survey used random sampling methods to obtain 6,267 completed telephone interviews with adult Montanans, including both landline and cell phone only households. The overall margin of sampling error for this survey was +/- 1.5%. Sampling error rates for sub-samples of this study will be higher. The response rate for this survey was 41.4 % using the American Association for Public Opinion Research (2008) standard definition (RR3).
Figure 1
Available Labor Supply by Occupational Category,
Age, and Educational Attainment, Montana

                                Number of
                                 Workers   Age        Education

Management                        20,700   43   Bachelor's Degree (+)
Construction & Extraction         20,400   29   HS Grad or GED
Sales & Related                   19,800   39   HS Grad or GED
Office & Admin. Support           15,800   40   HS Grad or GED
Education, Training & Library     12,300   39   Bachelor's Degree (+)
Transportation & Material
  Moving                          11,500   41   HS Grad or GED
Food Prep. & Serving Related      10,200   28   HS Grad or GED
Health Care Practitioners
  & Technical                      8,800   42   Associate's Degree (+)
Production                         8,300   37   HS Grad or GED
Business & Financial
  Operations                       7,300   40   HS Grad or GED

Source: BBER Labor Market Analysis Survey, 2008.

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 3
Available Labor Supply by Occupational Category, Age,
and Educational Attainment, Northwest [Region 1]

                                Number of
                                 Workers   Age        Education

Construction & Extraction          8,800   24   HS Grad or GED
Management                         6,000   43   Bachelor's Degree (+)
Sales & Related                    6,000   36   HS Grad or GED
Office and Admin. Support          5,000   44   HS Grad or GED
Food Prep. & Serving Related      13,400   23   HS Grad or GED
Education, Training, & Library     3,200   45   Bachelor's Degree (+)
Production                        12,800   37   HS Grad or GED
Health Care Practitioners
  & Technical                     12,800   41   Bachelor's Degree (+)
Business & Financial               2,500   42   HS Grad or GED
Transportation & Material
  Moving                           2,500   44   HS Grad or GED

Source: BBER Labor Market Analysis Survey, 2008.

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 4
Available Labor Supply by Occupational Category, Age,
and Educational Attainment, Southwest [Region 2]

                                Number of
                                 Workers   Age        Education

Management                         6,600   44   Bachelor's Degree (+)
Sales & Related                    6,000   43   HS Grad or GED
Construction & Extraction          5,200   31   HS Grad or GED
Transportation & Material
  Moving                           4,800   30   HS Grad or GED
Education, Training, & Library     4,400   26   Bachelor's Degree (+)
Office & Admin. Support            2,700   29   HS Grad or GED
Production                         2,500   35   HS Grad or GED
Health Care Support                2,400   27   HS Grad or GED
Personal Care & Service            2,300   33   HS Grad or GED
Farming, Fishing, & Forestry       2,200   46   HS Grad or GED

Source: BBER Labor Market Analysis Survey, 2008.

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 5
Available Labor Supply by Occupational Category, Age,
and Educational Attainment, North Central [Region 3]

                                Number of
                                 Workers   Age        Education

Office & Admin. Support            2,700   46   HS Grad or GED
Construction & Extraction          2,300   29   HS Grad or GED
Management                         1,900   46   HS Grad or GED
Sales & Related                    1,800   43   HS Grad or GED
Education, Training, & Library     1,700   32   Bachelor's Degree (+)
Healthcare Support                 1,500   24   HS Grad or GED
Food Prep. & Serving Related       1,500   33   HS Grad or GED
Business & Financial               1,200   45   HS Grad or GED
Transportation & Material
  Moving                           1,000   48   HS Grad or GED
Healthcare Practitioners
  & Technical                      1,000   47   Associate's Degree (+)

Source: BBER Labor Market Analysis Survey, 2008.

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 6
Available Labor Supply by Occupational Category, Age,
and Educational Attainment, South Central [Region 4]

                                Number of
                                 Workers   Age        Education

Sales & Related                    5,100   39   HS Grad or GED
Management                         4,100   40   HS Grad or GED
Office & Admin. Support            3,900   40   HS Grad or GED
Construction & Extraction          3,000   43   HS Grad or GED
Food Prep. & Serving Related       2,600   28   HS Grad or GED
Health Care Practitioners
  & Technical                      2,400   39   Associate's Degree (+)
Transportation & Material
  Moving                           2,300   43   HS Grad or GED
Production                         1,900   40   HS Grad or GED
Education, Training, & Library     1,800   46   Bachelor's Degree (+)
Installation, Maintenance,
  & Repair                         1,800   38   Associate's Degree (+)

Source: BBER Labor Market Analysis Survey, 2008.

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 7
Available Labor Supply by Occupational Category, Age,
and Educational Attainment, Eastern [Region 5]

                                Number of
                                 Workers   Age        Education

Management                         2,200   49   HS Grad or GED
Office & Admin. Support            1,600   43   Associate's Degree (+)
Education, Training, & Library     1,200   47   Bachelor's Degree (+)
Construction & Extraction          1,000   31   HS Grad or GED
Installation, Maintenance,
  & Repair                           900   38   HS Grad or GED
Sales & Related                      900   41   HS Grad or GED
Transportation & Material
  Moving                             800   48   HS Grad or GED
Building & Grounds Cleaning
  & Maintenance                      600   43   HS Grad or GED
Food Prep. & Serving Related         600   21   HS Grad or GED
Health Care Practitioners
  & Technical                        600   45   Bachelor's Degree (+)

Source: BBER Labor Market Analysis Survey, 2008.

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Comment:Montana's labor pool: more workers than anticipated available to fill jobs.
Author:Baldridge, John
Publication:Montana Business Quarterly
Article Type:Statistical data
Geographic Code:1U8MT
Date:Sep 22, 2009
Words:1808
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