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North Dakota's unemployment rate falls to 1.7%

"It's great for our state to say, hey, we have 1.7% unemployment," said Phil Davis of Job Service North Dakota. "But it's bad for employers right now who don't have a lot to pick from.

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GRAND FORKS — North Dakota's unemployment rate has dipped to 1.7%, just two years removed from a rate of 8.3% during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phil Davis said the declining unemployment rate provides a mixed bag of news.

"We just don't have enough people to fill these jobs in our workforce any longer," said Davis, workforce services director for North Dakota Job Service. "If you read, most economists say a health economy has an unemployment rate of 4 to 5%. The reason they say that is because then you always have people who are out there looking."

The statewide unemployment count the past couple of months has been about 650. The number represents people who are weekly certifying their unemployment status with Job Service. Davis said nine weeks is the average a North Dakotan remains on unemployment.

"Out of that 650, roughly 60% of those people are going back to their employer," he said. "The employer might have shut down for a few weeks or shut down to clean their facility. That maybe gives us 200 people every week who are unemployed. So there's not a lot to choose from for our employers."

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Employees are finding jobs. There are more than 18,000 job listings on the Job Service website. According to Davis, the number of available jobs might be closer to 40,000 because employers are jumping at the chance to hire good, qualified workers.

"If you're an employer and have an opening for a welder and two quality welders come in, you're probably going to hire both in this market right now," he said.

Barry Wilfahrt, Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Chamber CEO and president, said the plethora of help-wanted signs in the area point out the urgent need for workers. In Grand Forks County, unemployment is at 1.5%.

"The tight labor market presents challenges for area employers for sure," he said, "but it's a good thing for people looking for a job. Looking ahead, there are fewer workers on the horizon because there are more people retiring than entering the workforce. About the only thing that could turn the employment tide would be major changes in federal immigration policy or a deep recession."

The last time Grand Forks County had a lower unemployment rate is believed to be October 2017, when it was at 1.3%.

Other North Dakota counties with low unemployment rates are Griggs at 1.2% and Cass at 1.4%. Divide County had a state-low 0.8% in September. The highest unemployment rate belonged to Rolette County at 5.5%.

"It's great for our state to say, hey, we have 1.7% unemployment," Davis said. "But it's bad for employers right now who don't have a lot to pick from. We have a very healthy economy. We are so diversified in the state of North Dakota."

Following are North Dakota employment-related numbers from recent months, compared to last year:

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Unemployment rate
September 2022: 1.7%
August 2022: 2.2%
September 2021: 2.6%

Unemployed
September: 2022 6,805
August 2022: 9,127
September 2021: 10,655

Employed
September 2022: 401,843
August 2022: 404,432
September 2021: 396,699

Labor force
September 2022: 408,648
August 2022: 413,559
September 2021: 407,354

Related Topics: BUSINESSJOBS
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