Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

A guy at the Y today asked me if I knew where that 3% to 2.5% unemployment figure comes from (for North Dakota). He asked what that 3% were holding out for because he saw in today’s Bismarck Tribune about six pages of help wanted ads, everything from engineers and accountants to waiters and waitresses. I note that today’s Forum’s first 10 pages of classifieds were help wanted ads. It is an interesting question. Who are the 2.5% to 3% unemployed, and why are they unemployed?

Jack McDonald


Thanks for passing along the questions! I contacted Michael Ziesch at Job Service North Dakota. Here’s what he said:

“We indeed have a very low unemployment rate. But there will always be some unemployed in an economy.

“In North Dakota’s case, much of this unemployment would be ‘frictional.’ It’s unemployment that may be voluntarily based. It occurs as workers transition between jobs. It may also include new entrants (recent graduates, persons just turning employment age, folks moving to the state, etc.) into the labor market who have not yet taken positions.

“Another large component are ‘seasonal, or work attached, unemployment.’ These are workers whose employers lay them off for short periods of time every year. The easy examples are folks in many components of agriculture, construction, manufacturing, etc. They undergo periodic unemployment waiting for recall.

“In an economy the size of North Dakota’s, there will always be unemployment … and the definition used for being ‘unemployed’ is pretty strict. You need to be out of work, but actively seeking work. So, it does not include discouraged workers (those who may feel nothing is available to suit them) and also those persons who chose not to be in the labor force at the time (retirees, pure students, stay-at-home caregivers, disabled persons).

“If I can help further with this, please let me know.”

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