From Dennis Cauchon at USAToday:
, the state with the nation's lowest unemployment rate, capped a decade of economic prosperity with dramatic population growth in its biggest cities. The superstar of North Dakota is its economy. The state's unemployment rate hasn't touched 5% since 1987 (see chart above). The state's per capita income rose over the decade from 38th in the nation to 17th, the biggest advance of any state.
"We've had an absolutely stellar few years," says University of North Dakota economist David Flynn. "In all honesty, when you look ahead, we should continue to do well for quite a while."
North Dakota is enjoying an oil boom in the western part of the state, drawing workers from across the country. Williston, in oil country, grew 17.6% to 14,716. The oil windfall has created a $1 billion state budget surplus.
Agricultural — 90% of the state's area is used for farms and ranches — is productive and profitable, making the state a top exporter of wheat and other crops. Federal agriculture subsidies add nearly $1 billion a year. North Dakota is one of the few states to add manufacturing jobs over the decade. Bobcat, maker of farm and construction equipment, is headquartered in the state.
"We don't have big factories like Gary, Ind., or steel mills that are hard to retool," Flynn says. "We have smaller plants that are some of the most efficient in the world." When factories closed elsewhere, production was often moved to North Dakota."