The discussion surrounding the oil boom and broader performance in the North Dakota economy tends to focus on variables such as employment, unemployment, and labor force. Nothing wrong with that really; these three measures provide important insights into labor markets and, at least indirectly, broader economic performance. There is a different measure, available with a much higher frequency and likely more useful to the broader discussions of economic performance: unemployment insurance claims.
It is a fun time to be an economist with an interest in data, and it has nothing to do with election policies because, as we all know, those have nothing to do with data anyway (zing!). The Bureau of Economic Analysis released its GDP by Metro Area report this week (available here). The first question many would have is: why do we care about a report that covers 2015, that is in the past?
The BLS data for Williston continue to tell an unfortunate story of the rapid rise in employment and, for the most part, an equally dramatic reversal. One of the most frequent questions asked about this is whether there will be a reversal of the latest trend when (if?) oil prices recover. I think the jury is out on that front.
The Census Bureau releases updated data (2015 data) on poverty tomorrow so it seems prudent to review the data for North Dakota now. Poverty is an important topic, and intimately connected to the debate over income and wealth inequality that are all the rage right now. The situation in North Dakota is somewhat interesting, and how we talk about poverty is important. This discussion refers to table S1701 reporting the 5-year ACS estimates.
There are numerous debates about the relative importance of industries in the Dakotas, as there should be. The constant re-examination of the relative position of industries means people are paying attention. In the last several years the main focus of the debate was the relative supremacy of agriculture versus oil. That debate is on the back burner for now, somewhat, with most commodities in something of a down cycle.