Currently viewing the category: "Minnesota"

If you read the national and regional news there isn’t much I can add here for the employment report for the northern plains. Well, some detail that most readers probably know, but just to emphasize here it is:

North Dakota is still growing. There is some growth that is explainable, but I am not sure about some of it. For instance, the growth in Fargo, the size of the growth is a little hard to understand compared to the rest of the country. The only thing I would say is that town is continuing to be the Twin Cities furthest northwest suburban area and Minnesota, especially the Twin Cities metropolitan area, and more, has had good growth the past year. I think Fargo and Sioux Falls are benefiting from that growth. Good for North Dakota.

Good for South Dakota, too. Probably it is more accurate to say even “gooder” for South Dakota. Unlike North Dakota, South Dakota doesn’t have those four bigger towns and then a few medium size. Instead, it has one big town (Sioux Falls) and then several bigger towns that have significant economies.

Of course South Dakota doesn’t have the oil boom economy and its growth hasn’t been as dramatic as North Dakota’s, but it has had a good recovery and it shows with the good unemployment rates in those “bigger small towns”.

While the wild growth days of the oil boom in North Dakota is gone (as planned for), but there is still plenty of growth left. There are suppose to be 25,000 plus unfilled jobs still in the state. What happens this fall could create a change if voters take an anti-growth attitude. It will be interesting to see what happens and could give journalist a lot to write about for the next two years. As for me, I don’t expect that, at least to any significant degree.

In the meantime, here is the report for this month, and as I said about the state revenues report last week: “Second verse, same as the first, a little bit….


Last year, 2013, the Grand Forks city building permit dollar value totaled just over $212 million. That was a record for the city. This year to date, that is January through April totaled nearly $79 million while in that record last year in the same time period the amount was not quite $24 million. That is, through April the amount is over three times last years figure at the same time.

Now with so many projects already started there is probable fewer projects that the contractors have the time to enter into yet this year, plus we don’t know what the weather holds for us. Still…? Imagine, especially if local contractors can get more help, or if contractors come in to Grand Forks to bid on contracts what this would do for the years totals.

True East Grand Forks is down by about 20 percent, but that was higher than normal last year because of one large commercial project. This year there is nothing there. That is what happens with one project in a small town. East Grand Forks building has been what we should expect as an average on a year to year basis.

Anyway, this is great for Grand Forks, and really the entire metro area. Things like this can go a long way towards making up for the lack of Canadian trade. I think we have a good year coming, or really already started, here in Grand Forks.


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


Here is the most recent employment/unemployment data for the northern plains. As always at this time of the year the data is a little later than normal because this is the time that North Dakota’s Job Service verifies the statistics from the past year.

While I only show year ago comparisons for North Dakota the employment picture improved for all four states in the northern plains. Of course North Dakota has the greatest percentage improvements because the economic growth it is continuing to enjoy. However, I would expect that as the oil patch continues to mature and the farm economy continues to slow down North Dakotas figures will become closer to its neighbors.

Minnesota, with the largest economy in terms of all measurements has had a very strong recovery. The one thing to point out for all the states is that not only are the employment percentages figures improving but the numbers are even better than the improvement would indicate. That is because the percentages are always based on the number of people looking for work and when the recession was at its worst many who were no longer eligible for unemployment payments simply quit looking for work which they had decided was not there. Today with the improvement in the economy many have come back into the labor market.

Let’s hope this is a long term trend.


Life in North Dakota is changing, and if you don’t believe that just look at the sales taxes across the state.

It doesn’t mean the oil boom has turned into a bust. Far from it, but it does mean that the wild days, the boomtown philosophy, the days of anything goes are gone. Instead, the days of organized growth, of building the infrastructure this dramatic change in North Dakota will take has begun like any good capitalist system requires.

There is, to me anyway, something peculiar about that nearly 50 percent increase in sales taxes for Fargo. I can only expect it has something to do with reporting, not that there hasn’t been growth at least as good as the averages around the state, and probably better, but not that much.

By the same token, there is nothing shocking, or scary about the decline in the sales tax in Williston. It is only a maturing of the oil patch exploration. Williston’s loss is Dickinson’s gain. Good for both of them. It certainly will be. There is not another area in the United States that wouldn’t trade places with either of them.

Anyway, it is early in the year and we are still in a tough winter, not only in North Dakota, but across the northern plains. Given the reality of the situation we still have a nice economy.

To me, the thing we need to watch is what I think will be a significant decline in the agricultural economy. Again, I don’t necessarily mean trouble, but these past few years have been about as good as farming has ever been, and those times are over, or so I think.

If you don’t have doubts, just ask the sugar beet farmers, and the corn farmers especially. It will be late in the year before we see the results, but the mainstream press will be using some new words to describe the quarterly sales tax and monthly state revenue reports.

By the way, I don’t have the Grand Forks motel assessments yet. I expect them soon and will report them as soon as I get them.