Comparing ND City Economic Performance – Wages

So we do not really have resolution on the issue of the appropriate set of cities to include in a comparison of Grand Forks to peers. Last week on the radio we just did not arrive at a set of criteria. As a result I just started with comparisons within North Dakota. The general tone of the phone calls makes clear this matters to people, but we need to accept that it might be misguided to compare these cities.

I started by looking at quarterly average weekly wage. There are other indicators, but this is a frequent topic on air with varied opinions so again, a logical place to start. This data is available by county, but the good news is that North Dakota really does not have counties with more than one large city so this should still be a decent metric.

Well in the levels it is clear the oil area of the Bakken takes off and stays well ahead of the other counties in the sample. Grand Forks is in fact the lowest in the levels though by the end of the sample period (Q2 2018). It does seem that all follow a pretty similar growth path, with the exception being Williams County.

When we look at the quarterly percentage change there is actually not a great deal of difference. The Williams county data has some higher spikes for sure, and Grand Forks is on the lower end towards the end of the time frame, but there are times it was higher than other too.

A preliminary conclusion here is that Grand Forks wages are low compared to other places in the state, but that is not necessarily a surprise especially compared to the oil counties. The other interesting aspect is that the growth performance is actually not all that different between the counties except for a few instances. That is consistent in both pictures and suggest some uniform impacts across the counties.

For my two cents, I am not fond of the comparison. I think the other cities are distinct from Grand Forks in important ways. However, starting with geographic proximity as a comparison point makes some sense and it is time to branch out a bit.

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