Currently viewing the category: "Montana"

Here is the latest, that is including and through March 2014 and Year To Date data. There are no surprises here and really just what we would have expected. That is good.

First of all, remember both Devils Lake and Jamestown are going to be getting service from a new airline and that will bring a change in their destinations. That begins this fall if I remember. In the meantime, they have no service. That is why their reports are zero.

Second, as it has been for a few years now it is the oil patch airports of Williston and Dickinson that are still our big growth. For those who say the boom is over they need to look at this. It is probably fair to say that the oil companies know where the oil is, but there are still thousands of wells to be drilled to get at that oil. Someday there may be fewer people coming in to finish this up, but it isn’t now.

It is nice to see Minot has finally, I think, completed its adjustment from its terrible flood. Now we will be able to see the effect of oil. I think, as we see this month, that effect is growth in a lot of areas including airline boardings.

Bismarck is probably the only major city slowing down, and that is both because of changes in the oil boom and the fact that the legislature is not meeting this year. The oil boom is because of the current decline in state land leasing.

Finally, Fargo shows it is the busiest, fastest growing industrial town. Grand Forks disappoints me. A year ago it showed signs to me that it might be the next growth area in the state as Fargo was wrestling with some of the growing pains a city needs to go through. This month doesn’t support that thesis. We will have to wait a couple of more months to see if that is happening.


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.


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.


Not much we can add that is different from last month. Oh, unemployment is a little higher but that is what we expect as we go into the winter, especially this winter which is, to put it kindly, difficult.
That is for all four states, that it is difficult. The other thing we need to remember is that if we have any thing approaching an industrial state it is Minnesota and really that seems to be having a nice recovery.
We know the reason for North Dakota’s strength. It is mostly oil, and if there is any slow down it can probably be attributed to the slow down in the ag sector. Remember, John Deere laid off something around 60 permanent employees and while the announcements have not been necessarily made as to the numbers we can be comfortable in expecting other ag manufacturing plants to making changes of the same directions and probably the same magnitude. But the slow down has not been much as of yet and we can see that there is still strength in that ag market, so we will just have to wait and see.
As for Minnesota, that is a nice recovery and is creating a nice situation with their budget. For that we can be very pleased. So to the strength with South Dakota and Montana.
Taken together the Northern Plains continues to be the shining star of the American economy. We are fortunate that it is us. It is us. And we need to remember one other thing. The plains people have always understood if jobs are not here it is our responsibility to go find one, and if that means leaving home, well that is what we need to do, as difficult as that is. What ever that takes, here is the data compared to last month:


I called this blog the northern plains because my first choice was already taken. I wanted to call them The Great Plains because that is what they are. A couple of eastern urbanites want to call this part of the world the buffalo commons. They have written that it was a mistake to ever settle this part of the world. They said that this area was too dry. That the land was unproductive.

They were wrong. There are times the rain is short. There are times when there is too much rain. Yes, there are places that the productivity is not what we would wish for, but across most of it, and I mean across nearly all of it, the productivity is just fine. The land in northwestern North Dakota and northeastern Montana is just fine. In fact that is why most of the buffalo were out there. It was the area of the greatest most productive pasture. That land around Lansford is as good as any place in the Red River Valley.

As for the Poppers, the college professors who don’t understand economics, I just read that they were back out here (Kansas I think, but south of here anyway). Don’t know what they are saying now, and really I don’t care.

When I was writing for the daily paper he wrote me saying I was putting too much emphasis on energy development and if you read what I wrote about their theory I never said one word about that. I invited them to come to Grand Forks for a public discussion. They said yes and then cancelled but said they would come “soon”. That was four or five years ago and today when I try to contact them I never get a response from them.

Like the photographer from National Geographic who also got it wrong, I am not going to write about their errors, at least now, but someday soon I will. It is, as I repeat my favorite phrase Econ 101. It demonstrates again the problem of journalism. People writing about subjects they don’t know anything, or at least enough, about.

This posting in many ways is repetitive of others I have made. This simply provides more data to describe why the northern plains are part of the worlds bread basket. And of all the areas of the world that call themselves that we more than most, have the right to do so.

Sitting in an office reading statistics leaves you with one impression of a state, but drive across that state where there are a lot of acres of a particular crop and you may have a different impression of the state.

Drive across North Dakota and you say this is a wheat state, and oil in the northwest, but drive across Minnesota and you understand the difference because of the corn base and also how dairy makes Minnesota different from North Dakota. The predominance of corn is another thing, especially in the southern half.

South Dakota is different again. In terms of acreage it appears to be a 60/40 split between corn and soybeans. As you cross the river it is more a mix of crop with pasture and cattle becoming of great importance.

Montana, again as I mentioned in an earlier posting, is the most unique of the four states I call the northern plains. The eastern one-third to one-half of the state is big rolling farm country, mostly wheat. Then your at the mountains. Fly across Big Sky country from Sea-Tac to MSP. Be sure to get a window seat and what a view of America. You look at all those mountain ranges and between them maybe America at its best. Every little corner of one of those valleys is developed. Where possible there is an irrigation circle, on the hillside a wheat field, and in the wildest parts a pasture. Wish my great-grandfather had listened to that teacher and kept heading west. We are all cowboys in our hearts.

So, here are some more agricultural stats. For those of you who are Plainsmen (and women) while you may not know some of the specifics here you understand what you are going to see. You know the importance of what is here and you know how the makes us what we are. You are those who I am talking about when I talk about the people of the plains, even when we might not agree with one another on every issue.

I would appreciate any questions or comments you have. I always appreciate hearing what you have to say. In my original posting of this column I made a mistake in the way I presented the data for sugarbeets and potatoes. I received an email questioning the way the data appeared and I have now corrected the posting. I also responded thanking him for pointing that out and apologizing, but mostly thanking him for giving me the opportunity to get it right. I meant it when I said it to him, and I mean it when I tell all of you that I appreciate any opportunity to correct my mistakes. Please don’t hesitate to point them out.

Differences of opinion are just that, differences of opinion. However, a mistake is a mistake and will not stand in my columns.