HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana economy is expected to suffer an average job loss of about 7% or 51,000 jobs and could take years to recover from a decline caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a preliminary economic analysis said.

The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana conducted its analysis to predict the overall state economy, which might hit pre-virus projections sometime in 2021 and 2022, the report said.

“By the time we get to the last three months of (2020), the expectation is there’s going to be some return to growth,” economist and bureau director Patrick Barkey said. “It’ll take at least two years for the economy to get back on its trend.”

However, projections could change as the coronavirus could bring a second wave of infections and deaths.

“We did this study on on the effects of COVID on the Montana economy with some trepidation, because it’s still a moving target,” Barkey said.

The report predicts that personal income for state residents will be $3.9 billion less than the December 2019 prediction and that nearly every major industry in the state including hospitality, food, retail and arts and entertainment will have lower employment because of the pandemic, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

“We are trying to forecast something that is outside most of our experience as forecasters,” Barkey said. “If we have another shutdown in the sense that stay-at-home orders, closing down lots and lots of businesses and so forth, then I think we could very well see something that’s different than what we’re projecting for the end of the year.”

The Bureau used research from the economic forecasting firm IHS Markit, the same firm that projects the state's revenues for the state government, the Missoulian reported.