Workforce opportunities, challenges exist in Jamestown region

The labor force in 9 area counties has declined but programs are seeking to change that.

labor force worker shortage in day cares 031423.jpg
Children participate in activities at Building Blocks Child Development Center in Jamestown. Day care facilities are crucial to workforce labor.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

JAMESTOWN — The labor force is defined as the civilian population over the age of 16 that is working or actively seeking work, said Danica Chaput, workforce center manager at Job Service North Dakota in Jamestown. For example, it does not include inmates in the Stutsman County Correctional Center or the James River Correctional Center or people who are retired, students or otherwise not looking for employment.

It is a number that has been declining in Stutsman County.

The most recent labor force number for Stutsman County is 10,295 people, Chaput said.

Looking back to 2012, for example, the labor force in Stutsman County was 10,362. In 2002, it was 11,673 people.

As of March 8, we had 535 openings listed. That is probably understated in the retail and service sector.
Danica Chaput, workforce center manager, Job Service North Dakota in Jamestown

Expanding the territory to the nine-county area that includes Barnes, Dickey, Foster, Griggs, LaMoure, Logan, McIntosh, Stutsman and Wells, the labor force was 30,808 in 2002 and is now 26,358.


The population of the nine-county area declined from 61,274 in 2000 to a 2020 population of 57,349. However, the Stutsman County population grew from 21,908 in 2000 to 22,623 in 2020.

With a declining population, the challenge has been to recruit workers from outside the region, according to Katie Ralston Howe, director of the Workforce Team at the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

Howe said people consider factors such as affordable housing, child care, the potential for the spouse or other family members and schools when contemplating relocating to a new area.

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“The North Dakota population grew in the last decade,” Howe said. “We have to do both, bring people to the state and keep people from leaving North Dakota.”

The Department of Commerce has operated the “Find the Good Life” promotion as a talent attraction promotion for the entire state. It has also empowered local and regional groups to operate their own incentives through grant funding.

“It allows the community to decide the greatest need,” Howe said.

In the Stutsman County area, officials determined child care as the greatest need. South Central Dakota Regional Council will administer a $1 million grant for the next year, according to Traci Redland, director of the SCDRC.

“We want to stabilize child care,” she said. “… this is helping them hire staff, maybe pay some benefits. Hire and retain people.”


The intent is with more child care facilities, it will be easier to recruit workers for other jobs in the region.

Chaput said on average, child care workers earn about $12 per hour in Stutsman County. This is lower than the statewide average for work of that type and lower than fast food and retail jobs in the Jamestown area.

In Stutsman County, the number of job openings exceeds the number of job seekers by more than 2 to 1, Chaput said.

“As of March 8, we had 535 openings listed,” she said. “That is probably understated in the retail and service sector.”

Employers in the food industry and retail often list a single opening and then hire multiple people depending on the number of qualified applicants.

Stutsman County currently has 225 people listed as unemployed but most of them are construction and farm workers who are seasonally unemployed and planning to return to their former employer in the spring.

Wages have also increased in Stutsman County and the region, according to statistics from the North Dakota Labor Department.

In 1990, the average annual wage in the region was $14,676. Workers in Stutsman County had the highest wages with a $16,744 average.


By 2010, the region’s average wage climbed to $31,870 and Foster County offered the highest average wage in the region at $35,932.

The increase in wages in the region between 1990 and 2010 amounted to 61.7% and exceeded the statewide increase in wages for the same period of 54.3%.

Recruiting workers can be a challenge even with increasing wages, Chaput said.

“People just exiting the justice system or the military could be good sources for workers willing to relocate,” she said.

And high school and college graduates this spring should also find good chances in the job market.

“There are so many opportunities for them,” Chaput said.

This is especially true for students who took part in internships or cooperative work experience through high school.

“The great thing now for people coming out of high school are they have the skills they can take right to the job,” Chaput said.

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