<< All News Tuesday, May 19, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. – Job Service North Dakota reported that labor statistics released today show North Dakota’s April not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 9.2 percent. The unemployment rate increased 6.5 percent between March and April. April 2019’s rate was 6.7 percent lower than the current rate.

Between March and April 2020 unemployment rose by 26,504, an increase of 245.2 percent. North Dakota typically sees a minor change in unemployment numbers between March and April. The over-the-year-change (April 2019 to April 2020) in the unemployed labor force was +27,348, an increase of 274.5 percent.

The national unemployment rate for April was 14.4 percent.


North Dakota Not Seasonally Adjusted Labor Force Data


April 2020

March 2020

April 2019

Unemployment Rate












Labor Force






The nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 14.7 percent for the month, much higher than the prior month and higher than the same period one year ago. The seasonally adjusted rate for North Dakota was 8.5 percent, much higher than the prior month and higher than the same period one year ago. The seasonal adjustment process uses a statistical adjustment to accommodate predictable fluctuations between months such as length of daylight and typical weather, allowing for comparison between all months of a year.

Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rates


April 2020

March 2020

April 2019

North Dakota




United States





North Dakota’s Nonfarm Employment

Preliminary estimates indicate North Dakota’s April 2020 not seasonally adjusted employment decreased 10.2 percent (-44,700) from the same period one year ago.

The Financial Activities industry reported the only over-the-year employment increase, adding +200 jobs (+0.8 percent). All other industries displayed a decrease in employment.

Leisure and Hospitality posted the largest over-the-year decline in employment, a loss of -20,600 jobs (-52.0 percent). A majority of this decline was attributed to Food Services and Drinking Place employment, which contributed a loss of 14,800 jobs statewide. Mining and Logging posted the second largest decline in employment, with a loss of 4,700 jobs (-22.1 percent) since April of 2019.


All three of North Dakota’s metro areas reported employment losses. Fargo posted an over-the-year loss of 12,700, while Bismarck and Grand Forks trailed with employment losses of 8,300 and 5,800, respectively.


·         Professional and Business Services (+500) was the only major industry to report a year-over-year employment gain. Other Services was the only industry to remain stable and not denote an employment change. Leisure and Hospitality was the only industry super sector to display a double-digit percentage loss in employment, a reduction of 7,800 jobs (-54.5 percent). Other significant numeric losses occurred in Educational and Health Services (-1,800) and Retail Trade (-1,300). All other industries displayed employment decreases of 800 or less.


·         Employment in the Manufacturing and Financial Activities industries has remained stable since April of 2019. No industry annual employment increases were reported. Leisure and Hospitality posted the largest loss, -3,700 jobs (-50.0 percent). Other prominent reductions took place in Government (-1,200), Retail Trade (-800), Professional and Business Services (-700), and Educational and Health Services (-700).


·         Financial Activities was the only industry to not display a change in annual industry employment. No year-over-year increases in employment were shown. Leisure and Hospitality lost 2,600 jobs (-44.8 percent). Lesser noteworthy losses occurred in; Government (-1,000), Educational and Health Services (-700), Other Services (-400), Retail Trade (-400), and Manufacturing (-200). All other industries displayed employment decreases of 100 jobs.


1.    The unemployment rate is the percentage of people actively seeking work compared to those in the labor force (employed plus unemployed).

2.    Data are subject to revision.

3.    The Job Service North Dakota Labor Market Information Center produced these statistics using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ nationally-required standard methodology.

4.    Labor Force data for county and substate areas will be posted on 5-27-2020 to the Labor Market Information website: https://www.ndlmi.com.

5.    Nonfarm Employment (CES) is a monthly estimate of nonfarm employment. It is benchmarked to actual data annually.

6.    The Current Employment Statistics (CES) Survey, conducted by the BLS, is a monthly establishment survey of about 140,000 businesses and government agencies, which cover approximately 490,000 individual worksites. The main objective of the CES Survey is to estimate nonfarm employment, hours and earnings at place of work for the entire Nation, individual States, and metropolitan areas. The survey, is a stratified, simple random sample of worksites where the sample strata, or subpopulations, are defined by state, industry, and employment size, yielding a state-based design. The establishment survey, like other sample surveys, is subject to sampling and nonsampling error.

7.    The Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program produces monthly employment and unemployment estimates for approximately 7,500 geographic areas, which include all States, labor market areas, counties, cities with a population of 25,000 or more, and all cities and towns in New England, regardless of population. LAUS estimates are designed to reflect the labor force concepts embodied in the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a monthly sample survey of households. The survey statistics on the labor force status of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years of age and over. CPS data are collected each month from a probability sample of approximately 60,000 occupied households and yield estimates of demographic, social, and economic characteristics of the population.



Updated May 19, 2020


How are workers counted as unemployed in labor force unemployment statistics?


Individuals of the resident labor force are considered unemployed if they reported no employment during the reference week (the week that includes the 12th of the month), were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the prior 4 weeks ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed. Not all persons 16 years and older are unemployed if not working. One must be available and actively looking for work, otherwise they are considered not in the labor force. Unemployed persons may be so by virtue of being laid off or having quit a job. Labor force statistics count persons where they live. If a Minnesota resident works in North Dakota and is subsequently laid off from their job, they are counted as unemployed in the Minnesota statistics even though their place of work was located in North Dakota.

Individuals who did not work at all during the survey reference week and who were under quarantine or self-isolating due to health concerns were categorized as employed (with a job, but not at work due to own illness, injury, or medical problem). People who did not work at all and who were not ill or quarantined but said they did not work due to COVID-19 are categorized as unemployed. This scenario would include people who reported “I work at a sports arena and everything is postponed” or “the restaurant closed for now due to COVID-19.”

How are workers counted as employed in nonfarm employment statistics?

Workers who are paid by their employer for all or any part of the pay period including the 12th of the month are counted as employed, even if they were not actually at their jobs. Workers who are temporarily or permanently absent from their jobs and who are not being paid are not counted as employed, even if they continue to receive company benefits like health insurance.

Why are labor force unemployment statistics so different from the unemployment insurance initial claims data?

Every week, Job Service North Dakota reports the number of people filing initial claims for unemployment benefits. Because the initial claims data are a weekly series, they can capture the impact of shocks more quickly than the monthly labor force unemployment statistics, particularly when these shocks hit between survey reference periods. The reference period for the labor force unemployment statistics is the week that includes the 12th of the month.


Data users must be cautious about trying to compare or reconcile the initial claims data with the labor force unemployment statistics gathered through a monthly survey. The labor force unemployment statistics derived from the monthly survey in no way depend upon the eligibility for or receipt of unemployment insurance benefits.

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