ND Metro Area Labor Force

Economic performance requires comparison often. It is not always clear what to do in terms of comparison sets though. Let’s start with the metropolitan areas in North Dakota. Labor force is a nice comparison variable to utilize as well. First we can look in the levels.

The takeaway from here should be that there is only one metropolitan area growing in North Dakota (in terms of labor force). You could maybe make the argument about Bismarck, but it is only in comparison to the lack of change in Grand Forks. There is basically no change over this time frame (2001 to 2019) in Grand Forks. There were many different initiatives in this time, but apparently little lasting impact, and frankly it appears little short term impact. There are probably many factors to examine as explanations for the different metro area outcomes, though I think the scale for Fargo is an advantage, and I would point to Grand Forks and a lack of clarity about what we are as a problem here.

Levels could be problematic as a sole point of comparison, so I also generated the monthly and year-over-year percentage changes.

I find very little useful in this except to say that it appears Bismarck experiences higher monthly fluctuations than the other communities, typically.

Absent the seasonal effects there is more interesting here. Grand Forks seems to come out a consistent third in terms of percentage change. That is, it is typically the lowest of the lines, regardless of the general movement up or down.

These data do not necessarily support or endorse and specific conclusion or policy action at this time. However, I think it confirms experiences that many believe, at least anecdotally to be true. As JT is fond of asking on the radio, “what is Grand Forks?” I think the outcome right now is that it is a weaker metropolitan area in terms of growth in labor force. Why is that the case? What adjustments or policies can be used to change this? Is it something to change? These are important further questions for policy authorities to address.

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