Montana’s Economy, Public Lands, and Competitive Advantage

This report summarizes Montana’s economy analyzing recent growth and what is driving its performance, including a description of how federal lands help attract people, investment, and businesses.

  • Overall, Montana’s economy is performing well. From 2001-2015, Montana’s employment increased by 20% while total real personal income increased by nearly half. Compared to the U.S., Montana’s real per capita income grew more than twice as fast.
  • As Montana’s economy diversifies, state assets–such as quality education and federal public lands–are increasingly important to attracting businesses and people crucial to the state’s economic future.
  • The top five fastest growing Montana counties during 2000-2015 are responsible for more than 75% of Montana’s job growth and benefit from nearby public lands and a diversity of growing economic sectors.

This report was sponsored by Business for Montana’s Outdoors as part of an effort to share new research and facilitate discussions among some of Montana’s leading businesses.

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Montana Is Growing and Outperforming Rest of the Nation

Chart: Montana vs U.S., percent change, 2000-2015From 2000-2015, Montana’s employment increased substantially while total real personal income increased by nearly half. Compared to the U.S., Montana’s real per capita income grew more than twice times as fast.

This growth is driven by an increase in higher quality jobs, and the rapid increase of investment and retirement income in the state. Public lands are helping to diversity Montana’s economy and fuel industries like outdoor recreation, and professional and technical services.


Map: Total population change by county, 2000-2015

The western half of the state has grown the fastest, led by Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, Flathead, Missoula, and Yellowstone counties. These five counties were responsible for more than three-quarters of job growth from 2000 to 2015.

Text: From 2001 to 2015, Montanans' total personal income grew by 49%


Since the start of the 21st Century, Montana’s employment, personal income, and per capita income growth all have significantly outpaced the United States.