Initial Unemployment Claims in ND

I fully recognize that by the time this is posted and read there will be an updated data point for us to consider but that is the nature of the time constraints these days.

There are serious concerns about the state of the economy in North Dakota, and with good reason. Seasonal flooding, retail fallout from social distancing, and oil price collapse are the major issues at play right now. Any one of these could be a major problem on their own, and to deal with them all at one time is a particularly difficult combination to address. One of the ways we can cut through this is to try to limit the focus.

To start we should recognize the relatively recent nature of the problems. If we go with the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in North Dakota on March 11 that gives us less than a month to consider. That month includes three reporting periods for initial claims from the state. Those three periods saw more 19,000 initial claims for unemployment in the state. How are the claims distributed in the counties around the state? The following map shows this:

It is not a surprise that the major population centers represent the largest share of initial claims. Cass county represents just over 25% of all initial claims in the state. The compression this creates for the other counties led me to attempt to scale the data, but what was the appropriate scaling factor. The variable is initial unemployment claims in weeks in March, so I arrived at February employment as the scaling variable. Essentially the employment number represents the maximum potential claims for each county and, as we now see, provides some better perspective on the unemployment changes in different counties across the state.

In this situation the percentage is no longer out of the state total, but a percentage employed in February 2020 in the specific county. Cass county is still high in terms of this metric, but there are three “hotter” spots in the state, namely Bottineau, Ward, and Morton counties. The Bakken counties of Williams and McKenzie are also high along with Stark county.

This map makes clear that there are many counties experiencing high losses compared to their employment levels. In another post I will discuss the distribution by occupation classification which is another crucial factor to consider.

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