North Dakota Retail Share in 2015

Continuing the look at economic differences across the state of North Dakota, today we turn to look at retail. One of the more aggravating things when you try to look at data at the county level are the redactions of information due to privacy concerns. I am not so much complaining about privacy rules are just venting that it makes the analysis less than complete because we do not know the situation for all counties. Here is what North Dakota looked like in 2015:


For the state as a whole there was more than $600 million in earnings from retail trade, for just under 8% of the nonfarm private earnings across the state. From a first look it appears that retail is a significant percentage in many locations across the state, though interestingly not the west.

This likely makes sense when we think about the pay packages for the oil patch workers and the earnings flows going to those, or closely related, occupations. This would somewhat explain the high level in locations like Minot and Grand Forks, that act as a retail hub for surrounding counties. This raises a question though, does retail hub status indicate a lack of diversification in a local economy.

Retail would create spillovers into sectors like transportation and maybe wholesale, but does it create research or technical jobs? Will it create manufacturing jobs? I think it unlikely that the causality runs in that direction, particularly for North Dakota at this time. In many ways this is why we see economic development policy focus manufacturing or other sectors, the chance for enhanced value added.

Fargo and Bismarck have high retail too, but not at the highest level like Grand Forks and Minot. There are other questions too, such as the implications for overall income growth when there is a concentration like this in retail. I need to expand the data to look at a few more years to see if there are discernible trends or patterns.





Data Source:, CA5N for North Dakota downloaded 11/28/2016

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