Missoula economic recovery is slow but (supposedly) under way

In Missoula, economic recovery is slow but under way.  (Supposedly.) That’s what an economist said in this story about growth the next three years in the Missoula area.

It’s baby steps for Missoula, evidently. The information came from the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana.

Montana didn’t fare as well as predicted by regional economists, (director Patrick Barkey) said, because “numbers show Montana’s economic growth was much weaker than originally thought going into the recession.”

Moving forward, the state won’t likely see any rebound in the hard-hit construction industry.

I hope those academics are correct that the recession really is “in the rearview mirror,” but this week, the prediction seems hard to swallow.

Wednesday, I met Diane Keefauver, a Missoula Food Bank volunteer getting free groceries for herself at a Feed the Children caravan stop in Missoula.

Keefauver was unemployed for two years, and her paid job now is just 12 hours a week. She told me she thinks everyone in the city has a copy of her resume on file ’cause at one point, she was sending two to four out each week.

She’s able-bodied and willing to work — and has the most cheerful attitude to boot — but the jobs aren’t there for her.

She isn’t alone, as folks at the Poverello Center know. These figures came from @poverellocentr this week: “180 people will eat lunch in our soup kitchen today. 65% of them have jobs.”

Emphasis added. So either those jobs don’t pay enough, or like the one Keefauver found, they aren’t full time. Or both.

I asked Feed the Children spokeswoman Abby Harris how the nonprofit selected Missoula as a stop along its Americans Feeding Americans Caravan.

Harris sent over the following data, which cites as sources the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. Here are some high(low)lights:

  • In the city of Missoula in 2008, some 23.7 percent of people lived in poverty compared with 13.2 percent in the U.S.
  • More people 65+ are poor compared with the national average. Here, it’s 13.3 percent; nationally, it’s 9.7 percent.
  • A hair more people under 18 can’t make ends meet compared with the national average either. Here, 19.7 percent; nationally, 19 percent.
  • Unemployment this June, on the other hand, was 7 percent in Missoula compared with 9.5 percent in the U.S.

So we’ve bottomed out? I’m not so sure.

At the same Wednesday event, Montana Food Bank Network executive director Peggy Grimes said she thinks there’s more recession for Montana before recovery ’cause national trends hit the Big Sky state on their tail end. I don’t know if Grimes is an economist, but she’s among the folks on the ground, seeing the need.

Who else is seeing the need? Pepsi. At least it’s seeing the need to “refresh” communities. It’s giving out “Pepsi Refresh Project” grants, and the Poverello Center is in the running for $50,000. Vote here before the end of August.

Feed the Children is coming back to Missoula, too. This from Harris:

Next (Thursday), we are bringing 960 backpacks full of school supplies and food to the homeless students of Missoula.

That’s a lot of backpacks, but they’ll probably give them all away.

– Keila Szpaller

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2 thoughts on “Missoula economic recovery is slow but (supposedly) under way

  1. I sense Ms. Szpaller’s doubt in the validity of these (supposed) experts findings, and wholeheartedly agree with her.

    All I hear is a lot Bureau of Business and Economic Research ‘experts’ explaining the blatantly obvious intermittently mixed with crapshoot guesses to justify their egos and high-paid salaries. Qualified economists all over the world continue to argue over the outcome, or further downward spiral, of this recession. Missoula is not so fortunate as to have anyone that knows any better. Not one of them knows. So admit it.

    It’s glaringly simple: when new businesses start, become successful, and people go back to work, we will be on the road to some recovery. But with more maintenance districts on the cards, creating greater city taxes, and even larger ones next year and for the foreseeable future, we will not be – who wants to start a business in Missoula who is not here simply for location? And it takes more than location to pay the bills and feed the kids, and unless this inept city council realize that some type of incentive is required to entice businesses here Missoula will continue to stagnate – even when the rest of the country is recovering. Missoula cannot survive on city, state, and government workers alone. The city itself is already too administratively top-heavy; hence the new taxes to balance a budget – and not provide better services.

    That this town has a poverty rate of 24% is testament to the abject failure of city government. It has ridden the wave of global prosperity for 10 years, gloated in its self-perpetuating empire, but did absolutely nothing to improve the lot of the average Missoulian, or be ready for the inevitable rainy day. And now the people will pay the price for that rainy day, just as they have for every other piece of administrative ineptitude coming down the pike for the past several years.

  2. It will be interesting to see what happens when this lackadaisical summer construction period ends and more people are laid off. Consider all the School District and UofM Teachers and Staff who have to get buy on last years salaries. I project they will hold their dollors for priority expenses. Our economy is going to continue to degrade and I hope our local governments will realize this. JerryB

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