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North Dakota Jobless Rate at 2.6%

Douglas A. McIntyre

The unemployment rate in the United States was 6.7% in December. In North Dakota, it was 2.6%. The low number is a testament to what having a very low population, and a jobs market dominated by one industry, can create -- the equivalent of full employment.

The shale oil boom has made it possible for almost every man and woman in North Dakota who wants a job to have one. That stands in sharp contrast to states that were dominated by one or two industries that collapsed. Unemployment in Nevada, which also has a low population that was once pressed higher by construction and gambling, had an unemployment rate of 8.8% in December. Workforces in those industries have been gutted. In the car capital of the world, Michigan, the figure was 8.4%.

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The Plains States continue to do remarkably well in terms of employment figures. Like North Dakota, their populations are small. Unemployment in South Dakota was 3.6%. The figure in Montana was 5.2%, in Nebraska 3.6% and in Wyoming 4.4%

The jobless rate in several large cities shows how they can improve or drag down the numbers for an entire state. Unemployment in Los Angeles was 9.2% in December. For all of California, the figure was 8.3%, well above the national average. The jobless rate in Chicago was 8.6%, the same as the state of Illinois. Detroit's jobless rate was 8.9%, against Michigan's 8.4%. New York City's unemployment rate was 8.1% in December, against New York State's 7.1%, a measure of just how well the upstate economy has recovered. The unemployment rate in tech-rich Seattle was 5.3%. In the state of Washington, the figure was 6.6% in December.

Summing up December, Bureau of Labor Statistics researchers wrote:

Rhode Island had the highest unemployment rate among the states in December, 9.1 percent. The next highest rates were in Nevada, 8.8 percent, and Illinois, 8.6 percent. North Dakota continued to have the lowest jobless rate, 2.6 percent. In total, 17 states had jobless rates significantly lower than the U.S. figure of 6.7 percent, 9 states and the District of Columbia had measurably higher rates, and 24 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation.

In a show of how just one sector of a small state's economy drives unemployment up or down, old manufacturing center Rhode Island is the 44th state by population, and South Dakota, rich with oil, is the 47th.

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