HELENA – Montana’s unemployment rate again dropped by 0.1 percent to 6.5 percent in January, marking six straight months of decreases. U.S. unemployment has also been receding since August, decreasing 0.2 percent to 8.3 percent in January.

Payroll employment estimates indicated small job growth of about 500 jobs over last quarter’s average. Total employment estimates, which include payroll, self-employed, and agricultural workers, indicated slightly more job growth, adding about 800 jobs over last quarter’s average.

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.2 points in January, with the price increases widespread across all goods. The index for all items less food and energy (also called core inflation) increased by 0.2 percent.

Each February, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry and the Bureau of Labor Statistics recalculate the employment estimates for the prior year in a process called benchmarking. The benchmarking process makes employment estimates more accurate, in addition to smoothing the data series. The benchmarked employment numbers for 2010 and 2011 will be released March 30.