Montana economy sets its own pace: Consumer sentiment survey provides reassurance
By Dave Burgess
Western Business News - Sept 2003
Montana did not feel the brunt of the national recession during 2001 and 2002. But in June 2003, the state's employment figures showed their first decline since 1987.
That, according to Paul Polzin, director of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, was a matter of concern. Many wondered if the drop in jobs signaled the arrival of recession in Montana.
Then came the bureau's July 2003 survey of Montana's consumer sentiment. The bureau tries to do the consumer sentiment survey every quarter. But it had been seven
months since the last one, and the results were significant.
Consumer sentiment survey
results. United States: black, Montana: green. Source: Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Univerity of Montana.
The survey showed that the opinion of Montana residents about their economic status had not declined.
Since Montana's consumer sentiment in July did not confirm the trend presented by the
state's employment data, it "suggests that this is not the beginning of a new recession," Polzin said.
Polzin wrote recently that "Montana avoided the impacts of both the 2001 recession
and the Sept. 11 attacks because its economic base is concentrated in agriculture, mining, wood products and other manufacturing,
nonresident travel and the federal government. The industries that were hard hit by these events include high-tech manufacturing, dot-coms, communications and financial services."
Brad Griffin, president of the Montana Retail Association, agreed with Polzin's conclusion.
"He is exactly right," he said. "We don't take the big hit when the rest of the country does, but conversely, we don't get the big bump either."
Two members of MRA's board in the restaurant business related to Griffin that sales were quite strong, also confirming the high rating for
consumer sentiment. They said that it appears that Americans are on the move this summer, eating out more frequently.
For all seven surveys performed by Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research back through 2001, Montana's consumer
sentiment rating came in relatively higher than the national rating compared to benchmarks. For all seven surveys, the Montana rating was at
the benchmark figure of 100 or above. And for all seven of those months, the national rating was below its benchmark 100.