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The valley generates more jobs

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opinion Jamestown, 58401
Jamestown North Dakota 121 3rd St NW 58401

While the economic benefit flowing from North Dakota’s Bakken oil boom is the stuff of headlines, the less emphasized story is that the Red River Valley economy is as strong and diversified as it has ever been. That conclusion can be drawn from recent job openings numbers for the valley, which includes the counties of Cass, Steele, Traill, Richland, Ransom and Sargent. That vast expanse of eastern North Dakota geography is about as far away from the state’s Oil Patch as you can get.

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The numbers are startling, not only because of current job openings but also because of the increase in openings over last year. Nearly all cities in the valley are showing strong job demand, but the center of activity is Fargo, the state’s largest city and the metro with the most diversified jobs base. Demand is up for jobs in nearly all employment categories, and all those classifications are represented in the large and expanding Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo job market. (Moorhead numbers are not included in the job statistics.)

The total of openings in the valley is up 25.4 percent over last year, which translates into 5,704 as of February compared to 4,552 in February 2013.

Job openings in such numbers suggest a very healthy economy. Employers are hiring, or trying to hire. The large number of job openings reveals a shortage of qualified workers. Business and industry can’t find enough people to fill the slots. Also, a shortage of workers tends to put upward pressure on wages. One factor: High Oil Patch wages pull workers west, and thus wages in the valley rise to hold workers and attract new ones. On balance, higher wages are better for an economy, and Fargo’s business growth and vitality indicate that’s the situation here.

Of course, a good case can be made that a significant segment of jobs here are tied to the boom in oil country, especially positions in manufacturing, transportation and construction. But the valley’s traditional ever-diversifying economic base is the real engine of growth and reliable generator of stable jobs in all job categories. However it’s parsed, the news is good.

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