Grand Forks County Labor Shortage

So JT asked me about the existence of a labor shortage in Grand Forks. Essentially asking if there really is one or is it something we make up to explain some issue in local labor markets. Let’s first understand that this can change from time to time, month to month as it were. Let’s go to the data.

Job Service North Dakota estimated the job openings for Grand Forks County in December 2017 to be 1,308. We can compare this number to the number unemployed in Grand Forks in the same month, provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The preliminary estimate for December 2017 was 838.

Why compare these two numbers? It shows that even if all the unemployed people in the county took a job (in December of 2017) there would still be 470 job openings. This says nothing about the quality of the jobs or the specific compensation characteristics (minimum wage, benefitted, etc.). It also says nothing about the qualifications and skills of the employees relative to the demands of the jobs.

Even with those caveats it is still pretty clear there is a degree of labor scarcity in Grand Forks county. An added twist to this has to do with the immigrant population. Without even looking at numbers we would need to conclude that without the population of recent immigrants it is likely this labor shortage would be worse.

According to the Census Bureau there were 2,850 naturalized U.S. citizens or non-U.S. citizens residing in Grand Forks County. The U.S. women just won the shoot out for the gold medal so I am going to stop the post here and will look for worker estimates later, but the point still stands: at 4% of the population of the county, it seems likely that this group is reducing the effects of a labor shortage, not exacerbating it.

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