Most of Montana’s reservations appear to have economies that are significantly different from the rest of the state, according to Aaron McNay, Economist, of the Research and Analysis Bureau of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.
During a period when Montana saw a rapid slowdown in employment growth, 2007 to 2008, most of the reservations in Montana saw continued growth in employment. In fact, all but one reservation, Fort Belknap, saw a growth in employment that was significantly larger than the rest of the state.
However, the strong growth in employment did not continue into the area of income growth, with only two reservations having an income growth rate that was above the statewide average.
A contributing factor to the divergences between the reservations and the rest of the state in terms of employment and income growth is the industry makeup on each reservation. For example, employment on most reservations is concentrated in the public sector, which is likely to provide some cushion for the reservations during recessionary periods. However, the public sector is unlikely to be the source of economic growth in the future, which may lead to a slower economic recovery on many of Montana’s reservations.
The unique opportunities that are available on reservations have led to economies on each reservation that have diverged from the rest of the state and from other reservations. Perhaps one of the most striking differences between employment on reservations and Montana is the relative size of the public sector.
For Montana, government employment accounted for 18.5% of the covered employment in 2008; on reservations, the average rate was nearly 50%
On some reservations, such as the Crow and Northern Cheyenne, government employment accounted for nearly four out of every five jobs. In addition, only the Rocky Boy’s reservation had the public sector accounting for a smaller proportion of total employment than Montana as a whole.
The Big Sky Business Journal
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