Tuesday, March 24, 2009

North Dakota: The little state that could

Hurray for rural America.

Reuters is reporting
that North Dakota's diversified economy is keeping the state of just over 600,000 people afloat while most U.S. states sink deeper into economic recession.

According to Reuters, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services this week upgraded the state's issuer credit rating to "AA-plus" from "AA," citing in part its "ability to generate surpluses with little impact from the current economic downturn."

Since December, S&P's state rating actions resulted in downgrades for California and Illinois and negative outlooks for Florida and Rhode Island ratings with North Dakota being the sole state upgraded by the ratings agency in six months.

As tax collections wither in most states, North Dakota is still raking in the revenue.

"North Dakota is about the only state in the country that is doing well, and its sales tax (revenue) was up 14.4 percent," said a recent Rockefeller Institute of Government report comparing state tax collections in the fourth quarter of 2008 to the same time period in 2007.

The state's jobless rate was a mere 4.2 percent in January, compared to the national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent.

"Isn't it crazy?" said Pam Sharp, North Dakota's budget director, in a telephone interview with Reuters on Thursday.

"People are still making money here; income growth is up," she added.

What sets North Dakota apart from other states according to Sharp is an economy that has been diversified beyond the energy and agricultural sectors, a stable housing market that did not take a hit from the subprime mortgage crisis and conservative financial management.

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