BNSF Furloughs Shouldn’t Cause Major Damage to MT Economy
On Wednesday, BNSF Railway chairman Matthew Rose announced that 4,600 railroad employees had been furloughed. Montana Department of Labor and Industry Senior Economist Barbara Wagner says the furloughs are due to a slowdown overseas, and should not have a big impact on Montana.
"The lower demand is in Russia and China, and a slower global economy," Wagner said. "We're not necessarily having this slower economy domestically. Part of the Railroads and BNSF in particular, they touch a lot of export products, which, in Montana include a lot of coal, oil and wheat."
Because railroad employees pay into the railroad retirement fund instead of the more common unemployment insurance, Wagner says she doesn’t know how many Montana jobs were effected.
"The U.S. Department of Labor and the Montana Department of Labor do not track railroad employees for unemployment insurance, so it is difficult for us to say how many local employees were impacted," Wagner said. "Certainly, along the Hi-line, in communities that have less wage income, this will impact them."
On the bright side, the slowdown in the railroad industry means it will be cheaper for agricultural and other Montana goods to be shipped by rail. BNSF dropped its rates for wheat and pulse crops dropped just last week.