FARGO — North Dakota has been ranked among the nation's top 10 job markets weathering the economic effects of the coronavirus, according to a study by MoneyRates.com, a personal finance resource.

“I believe that we raised the bottom of the economic decline by not completely shutting down our economy,” North Dakota Department of Commerce Commissioner Michelle Kommer said.

The study, released June 9 and authored by Richard Barrington, the senior financial analyst for MoneyRates.com, analyzed four job market factors across the nation in determining its rating:

  • Unemployment rate

  • Change in the unemployment rate since coronavirus lockdowns began

  • Exposure to industry sectors that have been most vulnerable to lockdowns

  • The number of job seekers per most recently-reported number of job openings in each state

Using this analysis, the top 10 job markets are:

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  1. Utah

  2. Kansas

  3. Nebraska

  4. Wyoming

  5. South Dakota

  6. Indiana (tie)

  7. Virginia (tie)

  8. Arizona

  9. Colorado

  10. North Dakota

North Dakota’s May unemployment rate was 9.2%, Kommer confirmed, which she said is lower than she initially expected.

“It was lower than what we were forecasting based on what we knew about how our industries were affected,” Kommer said.

The study ranked North Dakota seventh by its insured unemployment rate, fifth by the change in that rate since February, and fifth by overall job seekers per opening. It also factored in what it called “exposure to troubled sectors,” by which the state ranked 38th.

While Kommer was pleased with the study’s results, she wasn’t above questioning its methodology. When the study looked at “super sectors,” industries that have sustained the biggest job losses since the pandemic struck, agriculture wasn’t on its list.

“We wonder if that had some influence on where we rank,” Kommer said.

Natural resources, including oil, were accounted for in the study.

The troubled oil and agriculture industries, which have been hit hard in recent months, are in some ways addressed by a single summary line in the study's posted results. “(North Dakota) does have more exposure to troubled industries than most states,” according to the study, “so it remains to be seen whether its job market can sustain its strong performance.”

Kommer said the North Dakota Commerce Department is trying to understand both “the leading and the lagging indicators” driving the economy. She’s “cautiously optimistic” about what she’s seeing, she said, and there’s a reason for that.

“North Dakota did not completely shut down our state,” Kommer said, “and I have said all along that I hope in retrospect that we see the advantages of that bear out in our recovery trajectory.”

The full MoneyRates.com study can be found at https://www.money-rates.com/research-center/hottest-job-markets.htm

Michelle Kommer, North Dakota commerce commissioner
Michelle Kommer, North Dakota commerce commissioner