In 2015, Montana's average wage increased by 3% up to $40,065. But not all areas of the state experienced uniform growth, and 2015 represented something of a new direction from the growth patterns of recent years.
Regionally, wage growth over the last five years has been concentrated in the eastern portions of Montana that have been impacted by the oil and gas development, but that situation has now changed with the strong economic growth in the western portion of Montana. The following chart illustrates the wage growth in the U.S., Montana, and in Montana’s five regions for the five-year and one-year timeframes.
For the past five years, wage growth in Eastern Montana averaged 2.6% per year, with growth of 1.6% annually in the South Central region surrounding Billings. The low oil prices, which declined in mid-2014, have taken their toll in the eastern half of the state, with negative employment and wage growth over the last year. However, wages remain significantly higher than their 2010 level, with an average of $42,477 in 2015 compared to $34,351 in 2010.
The Southwest and Northwest regions have more than compensated for the wage and employment losses in Eastern Montana, with wage growth exceeding 4% in the Southwest Region surrounding Bozeman and Butte. Strong economic growth in the more populated half of the state has supported the overall economy and pushed state real wage growth in 2015 to the highest recorded values.