In most states, federal workers who have been furloughed due to the recent government shutdown are eligible for unemployment benefits. Many of those workers are right here in Montana, including Forest Service and National Park staff.

According to Labor Department staff, there are roughly 12,400 federal workers who call Montana home, as of checks in January. There are about 1,200 in Missoula County, 580 in Gallatin County and 620 in Flathead County.

It’s hard to tell exactly how many of the federal employees are furloughed, following government shutdown, though its estimated that most of them likely are.

Many of the employees have begun seeking unemployment benefits at local Job Service centers. NBC Montana caught up with a manager at Missoula’s Job Service center on Wednesday, who remembers the chaos at the center when the government shut down 17 years ago.

“People were scared because they had never experienced that and they had never been to a job service office and they didn’t know how long it would last,” said Wolf Ametsbichler.  

He says the office is much more prepared this time around, partly because most of the filing happens online now, and there isn’t added foot traffic from major layoffs at manufacturing businesses.

Ametsbichler has even encountered a Forest Service worker who has had to claim unemployment benefits again, after dealing with the same thing 17 years ago.