Is North Dakota the Recession’s Big Winner?

Last night, Marketplace had a great story about the strength of North Dakota’s economy in this recession. In short, our state is thriving right now:

What is happening is a combination of planning and luck that’s left the state with something rare these days: a $700 million budget surplus and a big fat tax cut. Its banks mostly avoided the subprime mess, and North Dakota worked to bring in more businesses like Microsoft. Then, prices went up quickly for the state’s traditional strengths — energy and agriculture.

So now with thousands of jobs available, North Dakota officials have been traveling out of state to try to fill them. Jerry Chavez heads a development corporation for the small city of Minot. Since the beginning of the year, his group has been making monthly visits to job fairs in hard-hit Midwestern communities.

You can listen to the whole story below.

North Dakota’s unemployment rate for June 2009 was 4.2 percent – the lowest in the country. As of July, there were about 9,000 job openings throughout the state. Granted, many are retail and food service positions that don’t great pay or benefits, but there are plenty of good ones in government, manufacturing, and especially, energy.

It’s now clear that North Dakota’s slow-and-steady growth rate during The Bubble was a blessing in disguise. Combine that sustainable growth with growing demand for alternative energy (wind, ethanol) and commodities (oil, coal, natural gas, grain, etc.)  and I think North Dakota has the opportunity to emerge from this recession stronger than ever.

As for that $1.2 billion state budget surplus – let’s just not ask too many questions about where that came from…

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