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Bismarck tops list of cities where job market is booming

Bismark, N.D.'s unemployment rate is a staggeringly low 2.8 percent. The number is driven in part by the state's oil boom.
Bismark, N.D.'s unemployment rate is a staggeringly low 2.8 percent. The number is driven in part by the state's oil boom.Bismarck-Mandan VCB

While July's jobs report was more-or-less better than expectations, the nation’s unemployment remains at a stubbornly high 8.3 percent.

But the job market isn’t bad everywhere in the country. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 metropolitan areas have unemployment rates below 5 percent. Several of them have unemployment rates below 4 percent.

While every city’s economy is different, there are several themes we can pull from the 21 cities in the gallery. slideshow: Cities with the lowest unemployment rates

Many of them have a state-run university or college in the region, or are the capital of the state where they are located.

While government can be intrusive into business at times, having a large government institution such as a college, capital or university in your city does create a stable workforce with relatively-decent salaries. In the case of a college or university town, the students constantly going in and out of the region can be an economic plus. For capitals, you have a state government’s entire bureaucracy and related services located in the region.

Others cities are doing well because they are dependent on the strength of regional industries. The top two cities in our list are in North Dakota, the epicenter of what can only be described as an oil “gold rush” the past few years, and several cities on our list are in Oklahoma or Texas, a traditional center of the nation’s energy economy.

Another industry found in many of these cities is health care, particularly large regional hospitals or health insurance companies. Healthcare is traditionally a recession-resistent industry, and with Americans getting older, it doesn’t look like that industry is going to shrink any time soon. A few of these cities are tourism destinations.

There’s also one last thing to pull from this list, as a good friend of mine pointed out: With a few exceptions, several of these cities are relatively small. A good number of these cities are under 100,000 people and a few are even under 50,000 people, so the unemployment rate can change quickly depending on the month or season. The biggest city on our list is Oklahoma City, for reasons that are explained in the gallery.

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