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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 11:46PM

Nette, so what you are saying, is that if fossil fuel extraction were to take place nationwide that it would not have the negative impact on ND.  The result would be that unemployment would drop in MANY states and the economy in general would improve. 


This is what happens when central government meddles in private enterprise.

Sep 2, 2012 11:44PM
if you dont want to work in the oil buisness in north dakota or cant find a job move to theeasten part of the state and you are guranteed a job for a farmer
Sep 2, 2012 11:40PM

I am ND born and raised.

The boom has affected every aspect of our lives here.

This 'study' is rather 1/2 and 1/2.

Crime, death, affordability, greed and gouging are at all time highs.

Ask most, and you'll likely hear about the lack of nightlife and how the male to female ratio is 6:1.

Good paying jobs don't mean much when your whole paycheck goes to rent, or a home you payed $200k for that originally sold for $50k ten years ago.


Our once quiet streets are flooded with seekers and 'tourists' as I call them.  Our communities weren't prepared for such an influx of people/businesses, so you will often hear complaining about the lack of housing, law enforcement, the crappy 2-lane highways and especially our weather.

That of which we hope will chase the riff-raff away.

Our schools are among some of the best, and we pride ourselves on our local, small town environment.
 If you and your family come this way, we will embrace you, but do your homework, make a plan and respect our community. 




Sep 2, 2012 11:33PM

The news piece by MSNLSD clearly tries to lead the viewer to believe that it's CURRENT NEWS!

If it's from 12/15/11, IT'S NOT NEWS.

She says in the report that Brian Shakman is LIVE in Williston North Dakota. There's snow behind him and he's wearing a heavy coat.  The daytime highs in Williston, N.D. now are in the upper 80's and the lows in the 70's. 

Why would MSNLSD run this piece NOW and say nothing other than the small print at the bottom that it was filmed last December unless they are concerned that Obama is losing ground in the polls and wants to make it appear that the oil boom in North Dakota wasn't producing the jobs that it obviously is. The last thing that Obama wants people to believe is that drilling for oil will improve the economy.  The thing is that North Dakota has about 3% unemployment.  If you can't find a job there, you don't deserve one.

This is an Obama re-election campaign piece.

News fraud at the very least!

Sep 2, 2012 11:20PM
Yeah, head right up to the frozen tundra, where it gets colder than Alaska, and drill some carbon up and Shale Tar to poison the Mid-Western aquifir that supplies water for 15 states, and poison our atmosphere, too!  Great advice for students who will find themselves stuck there, while the kids there will escape to the warmer climates like lemmings. Who wrote this article, The Chamber of Commerce? or was it the Koch Brothers, who make their billions off refining the oil that gets sold on the world market and will never lower our price of gas until we pass stronger legislation on the speculative Oil commodities market that banks and venture capitalists from around the world exploit to give us our price of gas? You see, more oil doesn't bring down the price of oil, only the demand for it does. If the Koch brothers keep strangling our supplies with fewer refineries, it doesn't matter how many oil wells are pumping, if they control how much comes out....
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 11:03PM

Too bad we can't produce all types of energy, all over our country.  Maybe energy independence is a way to create jobs and end this recession. Dubai is a shining city in the desert built with American money. If we can't learn from history, maybe we can learn from states that are succeeding.

Sep 2, 2012 11:01PM
My suggestion to all of you who see this and think you want to go work there is that you consider more than the money you might is where the money is no doubt, most people i know work up there and make great money, but thats just what they do up there WORK...I've seen many go up there leave there families and end up not being able to hack it, its not for everyone...basically if your not one hard working and tough SOB i would suggest staying with your current occupation because you probably wont last long...not to mention the crime rate is out of control.  
Sep 2, 2012 11:00PM
Does this report also tell everyboby there is no place for all these people to live and sorry folks Winter is comming cant stay in a tent all winter
Sep 2, 2012 10:55PM
Well, what can I say?  It reads like 90% of the comments about North Dakota are negative.  There are high paying jobs if you can find one, but the housing market seems to be taking advantage of this fact.  I'm writing from North Myrtle Beach, SC and this is strictly a tourist destination.  If you have a bent  for the hospitality industry and are good with people, this may be the place for you.  These employers are are always looking for good bodies in their younger years, and with tips, the money isn't bad.  During the off season, things are slow.  But, come April through September, you can make some decent money - the friends I know around here budget for that.  And, yes, you can get a tan here even in the winter.  ccm 
Sep 2, 2012 10:47PM
I think its pointless to uproot oneself and move where you think there "might" be jobs. There might not be any jobs there for you unless you have a very, very marketable skill.
Sep 2, 2012 10:45PM
To move to an oil or gas field boom town needs to be a well thought out decision.  When the housing industry dropped out, I moved to Wyoming. I spent 5 months without seeing my house back in Idaho, then another year plus working for 2 weeks and then going home for a week.  With a family that is a tough life.  I moved my family out here and the rent is well over $1600/month for a house and well over a grand for a small apartment.  The Field has slowed down and I moved to a different industry that allows me to live an actual life.  Through the 2.5 years that I worked for the "evil red empire" We worked 110-120 hours a week consistently.  It has slowed down here and people are being sent to ND and other areas.  There are a lot of things to consider. and my biggest one for "college grads" is that most of these jobs simply need a clean drug test, degrees don't mean much.  Good luck to all

Sep 2, 2012 10:23PM
What if your old and need a job?   :)

Sep 2, 2012 10:22PM
All these people discouraging others from moving in to ND and SD, so that they can jack up their own pay, by claiming shortage of people, be very careful.. soon the employers will go overseas for cheap labor, and you will have a town run down by cheap foreign labor.  Stop trying to discourage your fellow Americans from getting a meaningful job just because it cuts into your overtime pay.
Sep 2, 2012 10:20PM
I am in Utah and am 24 years old. Job outlook? Not so great... I am not sure why Utah is always on these lists for "Best of this, best of that." They must have bribed someone because with a slow adapting economy and state government ruled more by religious rhetoric than reason and logic, Utah is actually one of the worst places to live.
Sep 2, 2012 10:20PM
I am in Utah and am 24 years old. Job outlook? Not so great... I am not sure why Utah is always on these lists for "Best of this, best of that." They must have bribed someone because with a slow adapting economy and state government ruled more by religious rhetoric than reason and logic, Utah is actually one of the worst places to live.
Sep 2, 2012 10:12PM

Also, the news chick says, "6 months ago we showed you the oil boom in North Dakota".


The video interview ARE FROM 6 MONTHS AGO!!!  Did you watch the video???  They're wearing coats and there snow on the ground! 


The problem is it's HOT in Williston, North Dakota right now. Go to and you will see that it's been in the high 80's in the day and the 70's at night for the last 3 months!!!


If there's a housing shortage as the report says, unless you're a lazy slob, builders will be looking for any kind of help they can get and pay for it.


This is dishonest reporting at it's worst!!!



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 2, 2012 10:02PM
Leave it to MSNBC to make this a negative story.
Sep 2, 2012 9:59PM

Of course there's jobs there.  That's where they're drilling.  Duh! 


But of course drilling elsewhere, off and on-shore, fracking, shale mining, coal mining, Keystone, would do nothing to help unemployment or the economy...don't be silly.


Not to mention all the supporting jobs that would building homes in North Dakota.

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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.