If you look at the state-by-state unemployment numbers, you see that the states with the lowest unemployment are a set of low population rural areas led by North Dakota. Here’s the top ten places where it’s still possible to find a job:
So why doesn’t everybody move to North Dakota? Well, as Monica Davey reports for the NYT the state can’t accommodate all the people who’ve already moved there. She starts with the story of Joey Scott who relocated, found work immediately, and then couldn’t find a place to stay:
Every motel in town was booked, some for months in advance. Every apartment complex, even every mobile home park, had a waiting list. Mr. Scott found himself sleeping in his pickup truck in the Wal-Mart parking lot, shaving and washing his hair in a puddle of melted snow.
“I’ve got a pocketful of money, but I just can’t find a room,” said Mr. Scott, 25.
North Dakota has a novel problem: plenty of jobs, but nowhere to put the people who hold them.
I’ve only been to Wal-Mart a few times and never tried to use the facilities, but it seems to me that stores so big must have restrooms he could use for shaving purposes, right? Either way, it’s a nice glimpse at some of the problems that exist with simply trying to pick up and move to a place where jobs are available. That said, it’s still true that flexibility about location makes a country’s labor market more robust. One big advantage we have, economically, is that we have such a big country with a single language and it’s much easier to move from Arizona to Kansas than it is to move from Greece to Belgium. Lavish subsidies for homeownership to some extent undermine this flexibility, which is one of several reasons they should be done away with.