FILE — Montana Colstrip Power Plant

In this July 1, 2013, file photo, gas emissions rises from a coal-burning power plant in Colstrip, Montana. 

(The Center Square) – The state known as “Big Sky Country” ranks right in the middle of the pack for jobs, according to a new study released Wednesday by WalletHub.

The personal finance website compared all 50 states based on two key dimensions, job market and economic environment.

Those two areas were evaluated using 35 weighted metrics that were graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for job seekers. Each state’s weighted average across all metrics then determined the final rankings.

Montana ranked 26th with a cumulative score of 53.03, right behind North Carolina.

South Dakota, Nebraska, Washington, New Hampshire, Utah, North Dakota, Kansas, Vermont, Delaware and Colorado were the top 10.

The bottom 10 were Nevada, Michigan, New Mexico, Illinois, Mississippi, Hawaii, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Montana ranked third in the job market index and 31 for economic environment.

A state’s unemployment rate, along with employment growth, the number of part-time workers per 100 full-time employees, automation risk and job security were among the metrics used to measure job market.

Categories for a state’s economic environment included median annual income, average commute time and state income tax burden.

Montana came in fourth for shortest commute time behind South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming,

Adam McCann, author of the study, said one reason for it was the number of people who lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic and are now trying to reenter the job market.

Victoria Shivy, a psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, told WalletHub that community colleges could play a big role in retraining displaced workers.

“Perhaps a decade ago, or more, community college-based programs, especially those highlighting work in the trades, were seen as the best possible providers of worker retraining,” she said. “Perhaps ironically, funding released last year due to COVID-19 in the form of Disaster Recovery Dislocated Worker Grants may help community colleges meet these needs.”

Shivy pointed to Virginia, where community colleges have already partnered with local workforce development boards to retrain hospitality workers for new careers in health care.