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“How does our economy look? Is it what we want it to be? Can we identify aspects that we’re concerned about?” These are some of the questions Montana Free Press reporter Eric Dietrich set out to answer when analyzing projections from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, which has just released its 10-year outlook for 2018 to 2028. The state anticipates tens of thousands of annual job openings, Dietrich says, “but how many of them are actually good jobs?” 

Dietrich has reported for Montana Free Press since 2018, when he came on to develop his Long Streets economic reporting project, in which he uses data and visualization tools to provide a detailed look at Montana’s economic future through a variety of lenses.

Dietrich’s latest story, called “What Jobs May Come,” examines state economists’ forecasts for job openings, wages, and job turnover in Montana in the coming decade. The numbers show an earnings gap between workers with higher education and those without, and suggest that while a limited number of manufacturing jobs should continue to offer good opportunities for employees without a college degree, there may be more lucrative employment in the trades.

“I think if you can get into a training program that prepares you to be an electrician or a plumber or a boilermaker, you can make a decent living,” Dietrich says. “You know, electricians make a better wage than half the college-degree fields we’re talking about here.”

Alex McKenzie has worked with a diverse array of start-ups and nonprofit organizations. He is a former record producer and music journalist, has additional experience working in agriculture and food security, and previously operated his own dairy business. He lives in southwest Montana. Follow him on Twitter.