ND Metro Area Employment, 2010-2020

Metro area North Dakota accounts for a large share of the population and the economic activity in the state so it is interesting to pay attention to them at times. It is actually really important to look at these three metro areas compared to each other. That is where the most informative comparisons can be made. So what do we make of the employment situation in these metro areas over the last decade.

A big takeaway here is the continued growth of employment in Fargo without much of an increase in Bismarck and Grand Forks. These other two metro areas, in some ways, are falling behind Fargo. Think of the number of initiatives in these two metro areas to create growth that essentially created no noticeable changes in employment over this time frame. All this with low unemployment in these metro areas too.

Aside from the COVID spike in unemployment in 2020 there is low, perhaps critically low, unemployment evidenced by an unemployment rate below 4% in the metro areas. This concerns me, not because low unemployment rates are a bad thing. The low unemployment rate tells me there are not people out there looking for jobs, that is, there is not a pool of people to pull into the labor force. No matter the initiatives or programs or private sector innovations, if there are not people available one business merely predates workers from another business. That is not good for longer run, sustainable growth in metro areas like Bismarck and Grand Forks. It is a different story for Fargo based on this.

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