While exceptionally cold and snowy weather had a chilling effect on some consumer and business activity during the winter months, the Ninth District economy continued to show signs of moderate growth.
February nonfarm employment in district states increased at a moderate 1.4 percent pace from a year earlier, while the district unemployment rate dropped to 5.1 percent from 5.8 percent last year. Employment growth was strongest in North Dakota, while growth slowed in most other areas of the district. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate increased slightly in Minnesota, while staying flat or edging downward in other district states.
Wages for manufacturing workers in the district and nation slowed to 1.5 percent during the three-month period ending in February compared with a year earlier. A year ago, district manufacturing wages increased 2.8 percent. In North Dakota, manufacturing wages increased less than 1 percent, the slowest growth since 2007. Manufacturing wages decreased in Montana and South Dakota.
Personal income growth (adjusted for inflation) was positive overall, but slowed during fourth quarter 2013 across district states. While North Dakota’s year-over-year personal income growth of 3.1 percent was the highest in the district, it was the slowest pace of growth in that state since 2009. Personal income dropped 1.3 percent in South Dakota, the only state to post a decrease, due to a steep decline in farm income.
New housing authorizations for the three-month period ending in February were down 8 percent in district states. This follows strong gains in housing units authorized over the past two years. Nationally, housing units authorized were up 8 percent over the same period. The Dakotas and Minnesota posted year-over-year declines during the past few months, while Wisconsin was the only district state to show an increase. Home prices continued to show increases compared with a year earlier in several district cities. During fourth quarter 2013, home prices were 14 percent higher than a year ago in Bismarck, N.D., 12 percent higher in Minneapolis-St. Paul, 7 percent higher in Fargo, N.D., and 4 percent higher in Sioux Falls, S.D.
For current and historical data on the economic indicators referenced here, see the “Monthly Summary” spreadsheet, along with other Ninth District data that are updated regularly.