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James McPherson, Published July 10 2010

North Dakota jobs attract workers

BISMARCK – North Dakota’s healthy economy and scores of unfilled jobs lured workers from across the nation last year, with bordering states and Michigan leading the wave, a Job Service analysis shows.

Job Service said 6,620 people from other states found jobs in North Dakota last year, up from 3,631 in 2008. The numbers reflect only out-of-state residents who registered on the agency’s website by providing a Social Security number and later earned wages in North Dakota.

More than 27,000 people from other states registered online from 2008-09, records show.

Job Service North Dakota research analyst Michael Ziesch said the report is only a snapshot of the number of people who actually landed a job in the state.

“It’s just a small subset of the churn of people moving to North Dakota,” he said.

The influx of workers is a relatively new experience for North Dakota, a state that for decades suffered population decline. North Dakota began the decade with its highest population since 2000, according to Census Bureau figures.

The bureau’s most recent estimate put North Dakota’s population at 646,844 in July 2009, up from 641,421 in 2008 and the 2000 count of 642,200. The state’s population is up more than 14,000 people from a decade-low of 632,809 in 2003.

The state’s population peaked at 680,845 in 1930.

North Dakota’s strong economy led by the booming oil patch in the western part of the state has pushed the population in recent years.

In June, the state had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 3.3 percent and tallied 10,700 unfilled jobs, Ziesch said.

Residents from every state in the nation relocated to North Dakota last year to land a job, Ziesch said. More than 3,900 Minnesotans found work in North Dakota in 2009, followed by 433 Montanans and 340 South Dakotans, Job Service records show.

Michigan, a state hurt by an ailing auto industry and where unemployment has hovered around 14 percent, lost 235 residents who found work in North Dakota last year, Job Service records show.

“Other parts of the country are lacking jobs, and we have them,” said state Commerce Commissioner Shane Goettle. “People move toward opportunity.”

Officials from the Commerce Department and businesses in need of workers had been attending job fairs in other states hoping to entice former North Dakotans and others to move back to the state. But the practice has been halted, at least for a while, Goettle said.

“We haven’t been doing them for a while, and quite frankly, we haven’t had to,” he said.