Frugal NationFrugal Nation

Top opp for new grads: North Dakota

A new study rates the 10 best states for the 20-to-24 demographic. The lineup may surprise you.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 31, 2012 12:45PM

Image: Construction workers (© image100/Corbis)Hey, all you newly minted college grads: Any luck with the job search? If not, maybe you're looking in the wrong places.

Top opps can be found in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and other states that might not be everyone's first choice. Or so says "10 States Where Youth Rules," a new study from

The Dakotas? Really?

Study author Richard Barrington considered nine factors: the employment rate for people ages 20 to 24, car insurance costs, affordability and availability of housing, youth-oriented retailing, college costs, nightlife, healthfulness and the state's youthfulness. Post continues below video.

North Dakota's wide-open, oil-driven economy gave it a major advantage, and it did "just well enough in the lifestyles categories to grab the top spot," Barrington writes.

The other seven best states are Montana, Nebraska, Delaware, Vermont, Alaska, Utah and New Hampshire.

Barrington's work could give hope to new grads who feel it's impossible to get a job in this economy. Things aren't the same everywhere, he notes. While the national unemployment rate for the 20-to-24 age group is nearly 14%, it's only 3.3% in North Dakota.

So if the job search in Alabama (20.2% youth unemployment) or Mississippi (22.2%) makes you feel like banging your head against a wall, "try a different wall," Barrington suggests. "You shouldn't look at your career path too narrowly."

Improving your chances

Never pictured yourself in North Dakota or Utah? Get out of your comfort zone. Your degree does not define you. Getting your foot in the door -- any door -- can lead to opportunities you could never have imagined.


Barrington himself is a good example. He majored in communications and English, graduating in an era of 10% unemployment. Eventually he got what was essentially an entry-level bookkeeping job at an investment management firm; within two years he'd moved to the marketing side of the company.

During that time he made it his business to get trained as a chartered financial analyst. Now he's a senior finance analyst at

Who knows what chances await you in one of those 10 states? Consider all options instead of putting on "My destiny is in New York" blinders.

Direct your employment search toward one or more of those 10 states vs. just striking out toward where you think the work might be. A man interviewed in the video accompanying this article drove from Pennsylvania to North Dakota because he'd heard that jobs were plentiful. He found he didn't have the right experience to get hired.

But there's more than one kind of work in North Dakota and in the other nine states, too. Taking a job in what you might consider the hinterlands isn't settling for less. It's positioning yourself for the next stage of your life.

It's a living

Going to a place where you stand a better chance of success – job opps, lower cost of living -- means you can start paying down any student loans and/or consumer debt.

You'll avoid the dreaded résumé gaps, too. If no jobs in your field are to be had right now, then a job -- any job -- could do more than pay the bills. It may show future employers that you have initiative and a sense of responsibility.

Pretend you're a human resources manager. Your first interviewee spent 18 months sending out e-résumés and tweeting about the impossibility of finding the "right" job. The second is a young person who did what needed to be done: She took the best gig she could find in a place she'd never been, and she succeeded.

You can keep looking for work in your field, networking through social media and sites like LinkedIn. You can also spend long weekends or entire vacations in the cities where you want to work, meeting with people in your preferred profession.

After all, you'll actually be able to afford a vacation -- you'll be working.

Incidentally, you might just find that you like where you land. And if not? Well, choosing Delaware means you're close to Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C. From New Hampshire and Vermont it's fairly easy to get to Boston; from North Dakota, the Twin Cities beckon.

And the other states? They all have airports.

Would you look for work in one of these states? Why or why not?

More on MSN Money:

Sep 1, 2012 10:01AM
My husband and I did just this 11 months ago. Relocated from an area with 18% unemployment to the Dakotas. We now both have good jobs. Risk and challenging your comfort zone is what business is all about. And, a good down parka doesn't hurt. :-)
Sep 2, 2012 3:42PM
Take this article with a grain of salt.  Yes, there are jobs, and lots of money can be made, but the cost of living in the oil patch has more than doubled in the last few years.  Housing was already hard to find, but flooding over the last couple of years has made it even more difficult, with thousands of people being displaced from their homes.  Also, think about this:  Many fast food chains are now paying people between $15-20 an hour just to keep enough people employed to stay open, but this is not enough to live on anymore.  Homeless shelters on the other side of the state are filled beyond capacity with people who came to find work in the oil patch and either found they couldn't find the work the expected, or even when they did they couldn't afford to live there.  Also, contrary to popular belief, they DO require drug testing, they DO conduct background checks on any and every potential new employee, and they DON'T hire just anyone off the street.  It is a dangerous job, and they don't want to be shelling out big bucks to people who are inexperienced and will put their other employees at risk.
Sep 2, 2012 6:02PM
Just moved from there n we are very happy to be away !! You may think getting a job there is a great opportunity but be aware... Most oil companies, service companies treat you as tho you are disposible at every level !!  They can fire you at the drop of a hat !  Other than that you are going to pay a premium for basic living expenses, rent is astronomical etc... no cultural life to be had, little shopping and if you like to drink n fight then its your cup of tea. The state gov has pretty much been bought by the oil companies n they pull the strings on every level !!!!  Exercise Caution !!!
Sep 2, 2012 3:47PM
Please do not come to ND unless you have a job, a place to live and you are willing to treat ND as your home, be proud to live here. We don't need any more crap in our beautiful state.
Sep 2, 2012 2:21PM
It is great to see an article about my home state here; but do not load up your car or camper and come here looking for an easy way out.  Housing here is very expensive and short, unless you have the cash to buy a house or pay thousands of dollars a month for rent, think twice.  Make sure you look up what is happening here.  I love my state, but we have to many people coming here without a plan.  I wish the people advertising for this great opportunity would also list the challenges you will have coming here.  The cost of living has skyrocketed forcing many people who were born and raised here to move.  Also, many of the young kids who are moving here have family they are able to live with.  I hope and pray this changes, but with the oil boom, this is what happens.
Sep 2, 2012 5:54PM
No! Stop advertising North Dakota! We don't want you people! We already have enough problems! We don't need people and their violent tendencies in our state! Now murders are popping up when just a few years ago it was maybe one a year, we now get 9 or 10. I wish this boom never happened. 
Sep 2, 2012 6:00PM
Housing in the oil boom towns of North Dakota is absolutely not cheap.  Well it was cheap before the oil boom and after the oil boom it will be cheap again.   If you want to pay San Diego prices for ND property that has a chance to loose it's value as quick as it gained it's value go for it but this is not my idea of a great place for young people.  Yes there are more jobs than in the more desirable parts of the US but.....there is a down side to everything.  
Sep 2, 2012 11:15PM

Living in ND I would like to share with those who are considering moving here. People come from all over the world looking for jobs. Some find them, some do not. All jobs do not pay well. Low paying jobs combined with the now high prices for places to rent can also be a problem...if you can even find a place. Living in your vehicle does not cut it as the authorities do not like it and North Dakota is very cold in the winter. Driving can be hazardous due to ice and storms, and there are also the trucks on the oil fields where they drive the best they can, but the roads for them are dangerous (unless this has changed in the past 6 months). Then there are those come here to run their illegal business: drugs, prostitution, etc as well as the murders, rapes and thefts. People here are now having trouble trusting strangers due to the crime in ND MT and Canada. Please keep our law enforcement in your prayers. All that glitters is not gold. The jobs are rough when they are available, and the life can be crazy. From what I have heard from those who work oil, they do not get paid as much as is reported here. There are pros and cons to everything in life. To simply react does not work. Consider, pray, and then if you really believe that you are to be here-check out the jobs and the dynamics that go with a move. 

Hope this helps.

Sep 2, 2012 5:04PM
This is the third article I have seen about jobs in ND. This one is just as stupid as the last two. I just finished college a few months ago and barely holding onto my summer job. By the end of this month I probably will be without it. The only jobs there might be is working at fast food places like taco bell. Don't listen to these idiots at cause there is no jobs here. Maybe there is a few oil rig jobs but they are only hiring experienced workers and also the rent/housing will cost you a butt load.

I have tried before commenting on the previous articles telling people there aren't jobs here but people just thought I was being rude or something or didn't listen. Either way they come up here looking for jobs and then all they end up doing is looking for handouts and complaining. I don't feel sorry for those idiots one bit. Do your research first cause there isn't jobs here.

Sep 2, 2012 3:34PM
 Totally agree with NDGirl2012.  Please before you pack up and come up here, do some research first.  We have many college grads living at home because they can not afford the price of rent, if you can even find a place to rent anymore. We have people sleeping in the city parks because they can't afford to pay for housing.  Food prices have risen and so has the rate of crime.  I have lived here almost all of my life and it saddens me that I can't let my kids walk to school, a sporting event or to a friends house anymore.  I now carry Mace with me at all times.  Winter up here is cold and harsh.   Most winters involve over 80 inches of snow.  Sure the jobs are here, but can one afford to live here?
Sep 2, 2012 4:26PM
DO NOT COME TO NORTH DAKOTA! At least not without a plan. Sure we have jobs, but there is nowhere to live. There is a moratorium on man camps in the area and Williston just started their RV ban. I've lived here for close to 3 years now. Unless you can buy (and be prepared to spend a lot) then you will not have somewhere to live here.
Sep 2, 2012 3:59PM

Do what you have to do.  A dream life isn't waiting on the other side of graduation.  You have to put a life together one piece at a time and a degree just makes it possible, it doesn't make it happen for you.  Welcome to the real world. 


My husband and I took low paying jobs out of college that had nothing to do with our majors.  It wasn't ideal, but we had to eat.  He kept accepting difficult jobs in less than ideal locations, but each offer was better than the last.  It took about 10 years to get where we wanted to be.  There is no instant gratification.

Sep 2, 2012 10:03PM
I have one thing to say about this. Check out the article in the Williston Herald about the young man who came here to support his family and was dead within a week from a workplace accident. These jobs are not safe and it is back breaking hard work. Lost fingers are not uncommon! Don't just run out here unless you have a job lined up to start with and housing arranged because there is no housing and we will soon be in deep winter which is not pretty. Think hard before you make this choice it is NOT for everyone!
Sep 3, 2012 12:28AM

I have lived in South Dakota all my life.  I think it is God's secret.  It isn't crowded except for Sioux Falls.  I have traveled all over the United States except for Alaska and the New England states.  I have been to Europe, Canada and Mexico.  But I am always glad to come back to South Dakota.  The part I live in has a very low crime rate, good schools and overall good, kind people.  Many people come to this state for the Sturgis rally and also to see Mount Rushmore.  I think they can attest to the hospitality we offer.   South Dakota is also well known for very strict drug laws and you will get the book thrown at you.  The saying is that if you brings drugs into South Dakota, you come in on vacation and leave on probation.  I think it is a great place to raise a family, but that is my opinion.  Anywhere you live is what you make of it.  I just like living here.  Again, I love to travel, and my job has taken me most recently to Houston, Phoenix, and St. Louis.  They are wonderful places to visit, but the driving would lead me to road rage.  Jobs aren't handed out to you here, you do have to look and be willing to work hard.


Sep 2, 2012 3:41PM

Be sure you have housing lined up before you come here!  The western part of the state has very limited places to buy/rent.  There are so many people showing up here in ND that they have to live in their cars.  My property value here in Bismarck is now 80% more than when we bought our house 10 years ago.  With winter and -40 temps coming, you don't want to be on of those people living in a tent!

Lots of people are just showing up from other states.  The infrastructure couldn't handle the influx of people.  There is a lot of building going on, hopefully in a couple of years, there will be enough places built to house the influx of people.  But right now, it is a BIG problem.   And yes, there are a lot of jobs available for hard workers! 

Sep 2, 2012 5:49PM
I was born and raised in South Dakota and spent a decade working in North Dakota. Most young single people in the dakotas cannot earn a living wage unless they work two jobs or live with their parents. There is no fat list of great jobs and this article is totally full of crap. I wish this guy could be young and job hunting around here, then he'd know how absolutely ridiculous he is.
Sep 2, 2012 5:31PM
I live in South Dakota the wages suck and I would really like to know where all of these jobs are (over 50 your chances really suck unless you know someone important or can live on minimum wage they really think 7.25 is a good wage)!  Did you people really research this or just go by the chamber of commerce lies.  Main industry in South Dakota's largest city is credit cards and banking, collections anyone, local weekly food giveaway always has a line up way before the door open and the backpack giveaway for kids school supplies was all of the way around the block!  Go to South Dakota if you wish but please do your own research don't believe some article, and for pete's sack look at a map North and South Dakota are two different places and be prepared the farther north you go the colder it gets in the winter.  But the nice thing is there is a church that has weekly clothing giveaways.
Sep 2, 2012 7:57PM
I got a better idea than trying to move all the youth to 10 states.  How about we make it easier for the 20-24 year olds to get a job in their OWN states?  If they can't get a job, it's not exactly easy to move states, get a place to live and a car and have enough for groceries while waiting for the potential to earn more at their jobs.  Stop the outsourcing of jobs.  Everything is made in China... last I knew we weren't China.
Sep 2, 2012 1:53PM
I moved from Kansas to North Dakota in 1970 right out of college.  I don't intend to move back to Kansas at all and that's where I was born and raised.  Love North Dakota!  Best state in the world!
Sep 2, 2012 5:07PM

i've heard you can go to west texas and drive an oil tanker, and make over 100k a year.


but you need to have all the DoT training and certifications as well as a professional truck driver license.


so the job requires a few years of training and then experience to gain the certifications. you can't just drive into town monday and be working tuesday.

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.