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Volume 46, Number 1, Spring  2008

The New ICE Age

Investing in a Competitive, Educated Workforce


Sheila Stearns

As Montana employers struggle to find workers qualified to meet specific labor demands and replace retiring baby boomers, it becomes clear that investing in a competitive, educated workforce is of critical importance. The surest way to increase workforce supply and to enhance Montana's economy is through the ICE age philosophy, repeating the cycle over and over: Invest, Compete, Educate.

One Shock, Two Shocks, Three Shocks. A Recession?


Paul E. Polzin

The U.S. economy teeters on the brink of recession. The jitters started with the bursting of the house price bubble and continued with the credit crunch and high energy prices. The latest odds are about a 50-50 chance that the economy will fall into a recession during the next six months.

The Montana Economy Zooms Along


Paul E. Polzin

Wheat selling at greater than $8/bushel turbocharged the crops sector of Montana agriculture during late 2007. Montana's economic base is now firing on almost all cylinders, and the state is completing a record-breaking streak of four straight years of greater than 4 percent real growth. This annual growth is likely to continue into 2008 and maybe even beyond.

Outlook and Trends 2008

Montana Travel and Recreation


Norma P. Nickerson and Melissa Dubois

Based on Montana's current snow conditions, the strength of the Canadian dollar, and the likelihood for Americans to travel in the United States where their dollar is not deflated, Montana will likely experience a 2 to 3 percent increase in nonresident travel in 2008.

Challenges Ahead for Health Care Finance


Patrick M. Barkey

Reining in health care spending, while also improving access to care for those who cannot financially or physically access it, is a tall order for policy reforms to fill, yet evidence suggests headway can be made. Health care policy must remove cost as a barrier to receiving necessary care and increase the efficiency and efficacy of care in order to bring cost growth under control.

Outlook for Montana Agriculture


George Haynes

The 2008 Montana agricultural outlook for both crops and livestock is promising with relatively strong prices. Nationally, farm household income for 2007 is projected to increase by 8 percent, substantially above the 2001-2006 average. However, a tight labor market exists for agricultural workers in Montana and prices for energy-based inputs, such as fuel and fertilizer, are likely to remain relatively high.

Montana's Manufacturing Industry


Charles E. Keegan III and Jason Brandt

The U.S. economy is projected to slow in 2008, and further declines in the U.S. housing industry, tightening credit availability, and high oil prices all present risks to Montana manufacturers. However, while increases in global economic activity may slow slightly in 2008, continued strong economic performances, especially in China, India, and Russia, could help sustain demand for many Montana products.

Montana's Forest Products Industry

Current Conditions and 2008 Forecast


Todd A. Morgan, Charles E. Keegan III, and Jason Brandt

A second weak year in the U.S. housing industry continued to negatively impact Montana's wood products industry during 2007. Weak markets and mill curtailments are expected into 2009, with housing starts for 2008 expected to be lower than 2007 levels.