By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau
HELP WANTED: North Dakota Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley is leading an effort to attract workers to his state. Recent labor reports document nearly 3 job openings for every unemployed worker in the state.
BISMARCK, N.D. — The latest unemployment figures from North Dakota paint a familiar picture for citizens of the oil-rich state. A rock-bottom unemployment rate, and far more jobs than available workers, have become common themes.
“The nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.9 percent for September, a slight decrease from prior month,” a Tuesday press release from North Dakota Job Service states. “The seasonally adjusted rate for North Dakota was 2.8 percent in September, unchanged over the month and year.”
That unemployment rate qualifies North Dakota yet again for the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, coming in more than a half percentage point lower than South Dakota at 3.4 percent.
The report also documented 8,933 unemployed workers in the state for September. The state’s online job openings report for September counted 25,837 open positions, an increase of 12.1 percent over a year ago.
Counting online job listings alone, the state has 2.89 open jobs for every unemployed worker.
It’s a problem leaders in the state, which has benefited economically from booming oil development in its western region, are working to solve. The state has launched a national campaign led by Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley to lure 20,000 new workers to fill open jobs.
Still, the labor shortage has had a nice side effect for workers in the state. Although high rents and a rising cost of living have offset some of the gains, incomes have grown dramatically in North Dakota.
Wages even for entry-level jobs are so high in the state they sometimes go viral.Watchdog reported previously on a photo by University of Michigan economist Mark Perry of job listings at a Walmart in Williston, which showed cashiers commanding wages of more than $17 per hour.
In March, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report showing North Dakota’s personal incomes have nearly doubled over the past decade, to more than $57,000 per year. That’s a 93 percent increase from 2003 when incomes in the state were $29,569 per capita.
More remarkable is that North Dakota’s booming incomes come at a time when income growth is slowing in the rest of the country. Nationally, personal income growth slowed from 4.2 percent in 2012 to 2.6 percent in 2013, but North Dakota nearly tripled the national rate at 7.6 percent.
The state also was double the second-ranked state, Utah, which saw 4 percent growth, according to the BEA.