Currently viewing the category: "Minnesota-Northwest"

Well, the northern plains remain what is probably the best area of the country as far as unemployment being a problem is concerned.

Of course when I say that North Dakota remains the best as far as a low unemployment rate. Mostly that is because of the continuing oil expansion. It also has been because a great agricultural period that is now starting to slow down, significantly.

Minnesota has had one of the best employment improvements compared to most of the other states. Their state budget surplus is great and their unemployment rate is among the best in the U.S. South Dakota and Montana are really a little of each.

One thing about the farm states in the past is that when there were not jobs available you simply packed up and moved on to where there were jobs. Of course there were jobs in those other places then. Today, probably not, so when it is time to move on from Jamestown or Devils Lake will there be any place to go? Maybe to a limited degree Fargo and even Grand Forks for the industrial jobs. Maybe Williston, Minot, Dickinson and other towns in the Patch if there still is a demand out there at that time. Otherwise in a generation or two we will become just another state of unemployment.

In the meantime, here we are, still in the good times. North Dakota continues to lead the way in employment growth, personal income, and tax


Not much to write about concerning the jobs in the northern plains for December 2013 if you have been paying attention over the past three years. North Dakota leads the nation in the unemployment rate. That is, it has the lowest unemployment in the nation. As we enter the winter months there is a slight increase in the amount of unemployment. There are times it is nearly impossible to work under the situation that exists. We all know that and in fact it is expected.

Actually the surprising thing is that the amount of work that gets done gets done. We think the weather man overplays the wind chill, but we know how it is all but impossible to be out in those conditions up on one of those rigs.

So, we see a small increase in unemployment for two or so months and then as things moderate some through March we get moving again. Just watch.

So, we will have that seasonal slowdown and soon we will be back at it. So too will the ranchers with their early calves. Just watch. It is our history. They are a tough bunch whether it is calving, or fracking. Couldn’t be a better place for it to have happened.


There is nothing dramatic or surprising here. Nearly everything is down slightly, but really not beyond what most crop experts were calling for and not so much as to be a disaster except maybe for corn, especially for those who paid a lot for adding a lot of land, either by buying it or renting it.

On the other hand, if you put a lot into soybeans and you are getting them off, well you should be more than offsetting your corn losses.

So, we will have to see if any export demand will develop to turn this around. That will be the farmers salvation and the biggest customers (China, India and even Russia) are awfully good capitalist when it comes to playing the market to their advantage.

I certainly am no expert, and farmers need to discuss this with the professionals they work with, but as for me, I would be awfully tempted to close the granary door for a while, here is what the USDA said the markets are:

By the way, these are North Dakota prices but the prices for the other three states only changed in relation to their distance from the market. That is, as for the east coast sales the closer you are to Minneapolis with spring wheat the better your price, and at about half to two-thirds of the way across the Dakota’s, well Montana wheat country has better prices than western Dakota.


Good times in the northern plains. That certainly is the way it appears with the employment reports for the states. Of course North Dakota continues to look tremendous and it is. People mainly say it is the oil, it is the oil. That is true as far as it goes, but in North Dakota, in the great plains all through out the United States unemployment usually never got very high because when the technology changed and jobs disappeared the people left. Unlike the cities, there was no hope of a job at the next plant, or across town. We just knew we had to move on. This time the difference is there are other jobs, if not right at home they are not too far down the road, or at least as we define too far-not more than a couple hundred miles and so many were able to stay here and that is why employment is going up and so too is population.

North Dakota has the most opportunity, but South Dakota has good opportunities, too, and even the mixed agricultural and industrial state of Minnesota. Jobs are here-month after month after month. Minnesota got hit for a while, but they too are coming back. The only negative is that there are too many private industrial jobs disappearing in Minnesota, and I am not sure they will be back this time.

I have a lot of data about employment and unemployment here. Maybe too much, but I want you to be able to see all of it so you can interpret it yourself. I may make a few comments below, but first I want you to see the data, so here it is:

One final note, there is not a lot here about Montana. It is, as I mentioned before the state I know the least about. Any suggestions, lessons, etc, will be appreciated. In the meantime, I will try to learn more each month.


As for me, there is nothing that affects the soul like standing in a field of wheat watching a combine disappear into a cloud of dust against the deep red glow of the setting sun. When someone asked me to describe just what my work was I said it was describing life on the northern plains from an economic and cultural perspective with statistics being the paint brush.

To some that may sound corny. To others, impossible. How can a factual tool like a statistics table have any culture to it. Well, to some of us it just goes back to that old saw about a picture being worth a thousand words and “feeling” a statistical table, or graph, or chart being a picture. Understanding, without one written word just what is in front of you.

This rather long, complex table presented here does just that for me. I can look at this table and I can “see” the difference among all four of the states I consider to be in the northern plains. I know the difference between Minnesota dairy country that supported many more farms per township than North Dakota wheat country would do. It didn’t make one better than the other, it made one different than the other. So too the difference the crops and livestock supported in South Dakota than in North Dakota and even Minnesota although I would call much of South Dakota similar to Minnesota if not identical.

Montana is the state that I am least comfortable in describing. Partly because of the distance from me I certainly am the most unfamiliar with it. Partly though of the four states it changes the most dramatically from the big sky prairie of the east to the dramatic mountain land of the west. What a difference. What a change.

It takes a degree of academic interpretation, but the easiest way to see that difference is to look at each state as the table accumulates the economic value crop by crop. The higher that economic value it is easy to understand the more significant it is on establishing the culture. That is, dairy has a lot more to do with the culture of Minnesota than North Dakota. On the other hand, the wide open prairie of North Dakota with its towns comes from wheat being the single most important crop.

Of course other parts of technology has much to do with the culture. The facts that trains could go only so far before needing more water and coal had much to do with how often towns were established along the rail.

South Dakota may be the most economically and culturally mixed state of the four, at least in terms of the urban-rural mix, and the difference in that mix within the rural area. The east, especially the southeast, with both its farming and it urban areas is certainly that mix of having an area approaching the definition of urban at least with its ag processing and then its unique business based on the credit card industry.

But lets not take too much time talking about the economy and culture of our northern plains. Instead, look at these two tables and based on our life’s experiences know we can understand that really with the exception of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, and South Dakota Black Hills we are all rural, either farming or ranching. There is a difference of course depending on the significance of the type of crop, large irrigation, or animals such as dairy in Minnesota.

Then once we understand that something like the explosion of the North Dakota “oil patch” occurs and adds in a new factor that is changing what we must consider. However, it is too early to know what that will mean over time. It is just that we know it will mean a lot.

Until then, here are the tables. Look at them and I am sure you will understand