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2.1% Unemployment (yes - you read this correctly!)

What is the unemployment rate?  The actual answer, in my opinion, is that you can answer this in multiple ways depending on the story you want to tell.
  • 9.1% - this is the number that most commonly (and currently) makes the news.  It is the U.S. 'macro' unemployment rate.  This rate for August 2011 was just announced on Friday, September 2nd.
  • 7.2% - this is the rate for Minnesota.  Slower to be announced, this is the rate for July and reflects some of the people that were directly impacted by the State of Minnesota shutdown.  Typically (although NOT always), Minnesota has a rate that is lower than the national average.  We have a very diverse and, relatively speaking, resilient business climate in Minnesota.   (Wait for the comparison below, however!)
  • 7.5% - this is the rate for the Minneapolis/St. Paul/Bloomington area.  As mentioned above, this July number also reflects some of the laid-off State of Minnesota workers.
  • 4.3% - my personal favorite unemployment statistic.  It is the rate for people that are at least 25 years old and have a 4-year degree (or higher).  This number, which I have mentioned several times in the past, is published the same day/time that the macro number is published.  The BLS chart that shows unemployment by education level is at  Interestingly, is is approximately 1% lower in Minnesota for this group - meaning a traditionally full employment environment for this population according to labor economists.
  • 3.3% - this is the North Dakota rate in July.  Yes - you are reading this correctly.
Okay . . . . . . one more - yes - 2.1%!  This is the rate in western North Dakota.  It is an oil boom area.  Make all the comments you want at this point about western North Dakota (or North Dakota in general), but seeing an expanding economy in action was simply amazing.

Help Wanted and Housing Needed

I was just in western North Dakota on a business trip.  We are working with a manufacturing company that needs (1) a CFO and (2) a Division Manager.  While we were there, we also met with another expanding employer in the food industry that has multiple needs.  Both companies have long histories (pre-oil boom) and great stories to tell.  Their cultures are hard-working and friendly.  They take business needs and family balance seriously. Seeing an area of the country where there is expansion construction going on everywhere (and a feeling of optimism from all) was uplifting.  They have a community center (fitness areas, meeting areas, etc.) that rivals anything you will find in the twin cities.  Make all the comments you want about the idea of living in North Dakota, but they are clearly doing something right.  The issues they face are different than the ones we read about in the national news - there are worker shortages and challenges in finding housing.

Back to my opening question . . . . . . what is the unemployment rate?

Most of the retained search professionals I know are busy helping companies find the people that, for some reason, are not beating down the doors of the employers with the openings.  I know that the unemployment rate is 100% is you are unemployed (and 0% is you are employed).  The news - hard to read on a daily basis. My advice?  Focus on the 4.3% (or lower) if you are in that category (4-year degree or higher - and at least 25 years old) - and open yourself to moving for some amazing opportunities.  We as a population have been 'nesting' long enough - waiting for a safe and generally positive economic climate.  Stop reading about 9.1%; think about the 4.3% or lower rate that should make the news - and focus on the opportunities that do exist.  Back to western North Dakota - the oil boom is expected to run through 2016 and then even off (i.e. - not go down) before it goes up again.  That is news we should all like to hear!  That is an unemployment rate that offers opportunity and growth.