Employment in Grand Forks city and county

A little follow-up to the postings on employment, particularly for the one about Grand Forks (here). Talking with JT on the radio today, or maybe it was off-air, the difference between city and county came up. So let’s take a look at this:

Employment in Grand Forks City & County (Source: BLS)

Employment in Grand Forks City & County (Source: BLS)

As se can see, these two graphs could almost rest one on top of the other. In fact, Grand Forks city from 2000 to 2014 accounted for 81% of total county employment on average. The gap remains fairly consistent over this time frame too. A key point to recognize is that even for Grand Forks city we see a decline in employment from around the beginning of 2008 to present, though there is that little increase at the end. If we split out the data for the city from the total county data we get the following picture:

Employment in Grand Forks city & county less city (Source: BLS)

Employment in Grand Forks city & county less city (Source: BLS)

Both the Grand Forks city data and the County data (less the contribution of the city) show a decline. What is the point of this? Referring to the post linked above, there was not an increase in employment due to oil activity in the west. I am not doubting at all the dollar values of business done by firms in Grand Forks out west, just pointing out that there were not gains in employment. What does this tell us?

Hires by firms in Grand Forks due to opportunities in the oil fields likely took employees from other firms, which would not be a net addition to the employed. Any workers lost to jobs elsewhere (oil fields or other places) were not replaced fully. So Grand Forks did not see a gain in employment as oil prices increased, does that mean there will be an increase if/when oil activity declines? I doubt it. There is very low correlation between employment and oil prices, not a surprise given the relatively flat employment graph.

There are some potentially large headwinds for Grand Forks when you see this type of information. There will be more work to follow but JT and I talked about this so I thought I would update.

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