Schnees’s Shopper

A man exits Schnee’s after buying a pair of shoes Tuesday in Bozeman. The economic impact of COVID-19 is likely to persist in Montana due to a presumed decrease in tourism this summer.

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An analysis conducted by a Montana economic research organization predicts that the state economy might take years to recover from the hits dealt by COVID-19, a recession the report calls “more severe than anything Montana has experienced in the postwar period.”

The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana’s preliminary analysis of the economic impacts of the virus on the state economy predicts that the overall state economy might hit pre-virus projections sometime in or after 2022. However, as COVID-19 is constantly changing, that prediction is far from set in stone.

“We did this study on on the effects of COVID on the Montana economy with some trepidation, because it’s still a moving target,” said Patrick Barkey, the BBER director, during a Zoom conference on the report. “We do expect to see a pretty strong return to growth, but even with that return to growth, it’s going to take a while.”

The report predicts that personal income for Montanans in 2020 will be $3.9 billion less than the December 2019 prediction, a drop that is “visibly larger” than the one that occurred during the Great Recession. The report states that the fall in personal income could also be a “significant erosion” for Montana, where more general fund money comes from income tax payments than anywhere else.

It also finds that nearly every major industry in Montana, especially hospitality, food, retail and arts and entertainment, will have lower employment in 2020 than predicted because of the virus. By the end of 2020, the report predicts that 50,000 jobs will be lost around the state. That number takes into account the fact that there are much higher unemployment numbers than that now, but hopefully fewer by the end of the year.

“We are trying to forecast something that is outside most of our experience as forecasters,” said Barkey. “If we have another shutdown in the sense that stay-at-home orders, closing down lots and lots of businesses and so forth, then I think we could very well see something that’s different than what we’re projecting for the end of the year.”

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at or at (406) 582-2651.