Some North Dakota Wage Comparisons

The radio audience really responded to the topics of income and wages the last few weeks. Along with the population posts (which I confess I find more interesting) I include another look at wages. I grabbed the data for goods producing and service providing jobs in three North Dakota counties: Cass, Grand Forks, and Williams. Nothing necessarily scientific about the county selection, just three that I know and that will likely give us something to ponder. 

First, a look at the relation between the two sectors in the three counties. 

In each county for every quarter the average weekly wage in service providing industries are lover than those in the goods producing jobs. The gaps appear pretty table by county as well which is interesting, suggesting a degree of balance between the sectors. The real excitement comes when we compare the different counties to each other though. 

Amazingly in goods producing industries Williams weekly age has been higher than Cass or Grand Forks county for the length of the data set, and it only pushed the advantage as time passed. This is more than just the Bakken oil boom, though as oil picks up after 2005 so does the gap between Williams and Cass counties. Grand Forks county usable to narrow the gap with Cass county towards the end of the data period as well. The story is a bit different when we talk about wages and service provision. 

Williams County started the time period as the lowest average weekly wage for service providing industries, thought was close to Grand Forks County. Cass County was clearly the high wage provider in this area as well. It is interesting that the gap between Grand Forks County and Cass County seems almost constant over the time interval here, as if they are following trend lines with the same slope. 

Clearly the most interesting outcome is the movement in the data series for Williams County. They go from the lowest position to the highest position. Williams, in the same period after 2005, pushes ahead of the other two counties as a result of the effects of oil activity. This is enormously important for hiring patterns and trends for the different counties going forward. Even with the slowdown in oil activity in the Bakken region we do not see wages retreat completely and in fact might be increasing the gap again. 

So a few takeaways from this: the general listener perception that Grand Forks wages than other areas in the state is supported by this data on average. There will always be exceptions to such a generalization, but the fact is in these two gross classifications we see a persistent gap between Grand Forks and Cass counties, and then Williams with its economic races ahead on the service front while was always ahead on the goods side. The second issue is the response of wages in the Bakken. This is what we would expect as a response to a labor shortage, a generic bidding up of wages. Now while we hear complains about labor shortages elsewhere, Grand Forks in particular, and we see that wages increase, they still seem to follow the same basic trend line, and do not vary much in their relationship to Cass county. Are wages here simply responding to Cass wages? That is, do local circumstances actually drive the wage evolution or is it something beyond our immediate geographic control? Also, if there is such a labor problem why do we not move off the same old trend line and seek to encourage more labor to enter by offering higher wages? These are all questions to consider and I am sure some will be discussed on the radio this week. 

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