Oil price concerns weigh heavy on the minds of many North Dakota leaders, but for now the state’s economy remains strong. We just got another datapoint proving it today with the latest state labor numbers.
You can read the full report below. Not a lot of surprises. Our unemployment rate remains unchanged at a rock-bottom low (2.4 percent this November versus 2.3 percent last November), but what caught my eye was the changes in the labor force numbers. From last November to this November the state added 16,454 workers:
Just to put that number into context, the increase in the state’s labor force was equivalent to adding a city sized roughly between Jamestown and Mandan.
Here’s the trend for growth in the state’s labor forced and employed workers. The growth, not surprisingly, has been strong:
The ups and downs are because North Dakota, due to the weather and the nature of our primary industries (agriculture, construction, energy), tends to have a very seasonal work force. But the trend is up, way up, which is another reason why dropping oil prices are concerning.
“A problem with the area’s growth is that much of it comes from people who have no intention of setting down roots,” reads a New York Times report out today.
That’s truth. If oil activity drops, a lot of these workers will move away not having anything else to keep them in the state. It’s unlikely that the state’s other industries would absorb them. They’ll either move away or, worse, stay and become a burden on the state’s welfare programs.
That means less commerce, less growth and – troublingly giving the state’s aggressive spending habits in recent bienniums – less tax revenues.