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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 2, 2012 9:45PM

I was born and raised in North Dakota its not that bad however I dont plan to live here after school. North Dakota offer low crime rate, good schools, and LOTS OF JOBS. however because of everyone coming here for all the jobs the housing market cant keep up. And its Cold during the winter negative 3 is the average, and snow drifts have been know to be higher then even the tallest of people.    

Sep 2, 2012 9:42PM
If you come to North Dakota and can't find a aren't looking too hard.\
Sep 2, 2012 9:39PM
Why are the folks all bundled up in the film?

This "news" was filmed six months ago!

It's summer in the Dakotas and the weather is warm.

Microsoft (MSN) is just filling space and wasting my time.

Sep 2, 2012 9:37PM
Yes, they do tell you there is no where to live and it;s bitter cold in the winter. Jeff M you sound like a very bitter man. The thing of it is no one is forced to come here to work or live, so if it's so bad don't come and you have nothing to complain about.
Sep 2, 2012 9:34PM
do not come to North Dakota. i am 25 and have lived here all of my life. the oilfield is beginning to slow down because all of the leases are tied up. jobs pay about $14/hr, but the big money comes in the overtime. they will work you 100+ hours per week. housing is not available or affordable. you will regret it if you come.
Sep 2, 2012 9:22PM
this is bad advice!!  if u come to the dakotas for a job, u may luck and find one but u will die of boredom...plz stay where u r and tough it out...coming here is a mistake...ive lived here for 40yrs and just now saved enough money to install electricity in my did i ever live without it!!....but really, stay away if ur smart!!
Sep 2, 2012 9:20PM
It is the worst pit in the world.You waite in line everywhere you go on the streets, in Walmart, in the resturaunt.As your getting robbed by the crime wave sweeping thru there as even the internet thieves are targeting North Dakota banks.My account got robbed there three times by thieves targeting the banks there.Heed my warning I had to work a year while my family stayed in Bismarck before I found a roach infested apartment to move them there then the landlord just started raising the rent every coup0le of months until we could not afford it.
Sep 2, 2012 9:19PM

In my younger days I went to where the work was.  Sometimes I slept on the ground and under job trailers from Lindon NJ to Rio Grand City TX..  In doing so I learned many trades from driving rivets to welding, with carpentry, pipe fitting, and heavy equipment operating along the way.  When i got older the wide open spaces didn't look to good with kids and a wife in tow.  However my multi-skill training pave the way where I could find a good paying job anywhere. I saved my money even when it was hard.  Today I don't have to work as I prepared for my retirement when I was younger. No 401K, N0 pension, just my own saving and investing with my Social Security I can make it.  My concerned now is with inflated money by too much government debt my proceeds may not last as long as I do.   Why?  Because the Democrats are destroying our well being with the help of the "Monkey see, Monkey do"   republicans.  No one has put meat into the problems facing the nation.  All we get is lip service from both side of the Isle.  Starting in 2007 How many of the democrat spending proposals were signed into law with out a single Veto.  How many "Monkey see Monkey do" republican got on the band wagon of spend, spend, spend.  How Many "Monkey see Monkey do" Republicans said a single word about shipping our jobs over seas tax free where there is no FICA, no OSHA, no Workmans comp, no unemployment tax, no EPA.  This didn't start with the King-fish now in office.  Remember the Alaskan pipeline?  it was built using Jap made pipe while American steel mills set idle.  It the same old story.  Politicians dance with the ones that brung-UM.  Today with wealthy moguls paying the campaign bill,, guess who the politicians are going to listen too. sure and hell not you and me.

Sep 2, 2012 9:15PM


Don't get foolled and move there employers will work you 110 hours a week no days of more months and months.I worked all day got sent out on a job all night got back to the shop that morning and worked all day then was sent home for 3 hours and then sent out for another job.;One guy I worked with had a nurvouse breakdown from all the hours he had to work.

Sep 2, 2012 9:11PM
I honestly wouldn't recommend coming here if you aren't prepared for all the hidden risks that lie around here. Other than that, and if you're considering coming up here, welcome to the Dakotas.
Sep 2, 2012 9:09PM
I lived there 10 years and now live in Wyoming.You can't buy a house even in ND.And it will show you have apt for 400.00 on some websites then you go there and there is nothing.Jobs hire you on and let you live in a man camp and you give them half your pay for living there.
Sep 2, 2012 9:07PM
They don't tell you theres no place to live and everything is double 6.00 a gallon of milk rent 2 bedroom 3600.00 a tree house with no windows is 500.00 a month.
Sep 2, 2012 8:40PM
I really don't understand all of the complaints about housing in ND.  I just checked the apartment guide website and found tons of apartments in ND, some starting at just $450 a month.  I am a relocator myself, but I always check apt. guide before I make the big move to see what the going rents are and if there are any apts. available near the zip of my potential new job.  Does anyone check apt. guide before heading there? 
Sep 2, 2012 8:28PM
sure, we have the jobs,but we dont have the houseing. and if your a total creep, stay there, we dont need or want you. if we get the "normal" winters, you will hate it here. in januray, it will get -30 here and alot of snow for almost the whole month. you can throw out some water and it will freeze before it hits the ground.
Sep 2, 2012 8:26PM

20 million unemployed...15million illegals and importing more ...just like oil  do the math

Sep 2, 2012 7:58PM
eye wanna job riting four msn caase iem a good riter
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 7:56PM
They should use current video and be more factual in their reporting.  There are plenty of jobs however there is no place to live and if you do find a place it is expensive.  The man camps they refer to are leased by companies to put the workers in and not all companies pay for camp accommodations.
Sep 2, 2012 7:48PM
North Dakotans fear not.  People may initially move there looking for work, but they won't stay.  The vast boredom and nothing to do-ness in North Dakota will certainly make 'em pack up and move back home.  Heck, you guys don't even have cable or restaurants there only IHOP!
Sep 2, 2012 7:44PM
Niagara Falls' or just Niagara, New York was at least offering some real  good perks to get college grads to move there.  Check out if they still are!
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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.