5 things to know today: Early voting, Low unemployment, Missing database, Hybrid work, Cats unleashed
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. 110,000 North Dakotans could vote before Tuesday's Election Day
People continue to stream into early voting sites and election offices in North Dakota and Minnesota, while absentee and vote-by-mail ballots roll in ahead of the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Brian Newby, state elections coordinator in North Dakota, predicts about 40% of the people who will vote will do so before Election Day.
Based on more than 80,000 ballots returned by Thursday afternoon, Newby said he could envision around 110,000 people voting before Tuesday.
Even though early, in-person voting wraps up for Cass County at 6 p.m. Friday, multiple other counties across the state are still holding early, in-person voting over the weekend, and even, on Monday, the day before the election.
Both Burleigh and Morton counties, home to Bismarck and Mandan, for example, have early, in-person voting happening on both Saturday and Monday, Newby said.
Grand Forks County has early, in-person voting on Saturday, and Ward County, home to Minot, has early in-person voting Monday.
2. North Dakota's unemployment rate falls to 1.7%
North Dakota's unemployment rate has dipped to 1.7%, just two years removed from a rate of 8.3% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Phil Davis said the declining unemployment rate provides a mixed bag of news.
"We just don't have enough people to fill these jobs in our workforce any longer," said Davis, workforce services director for North Dakota Job Service. "If you read, most economists say a health economy has an unemployment rate of 4 to 5%. The reason they say that is because then you always have people who are out there looking."
The statewide unemployment count the past couple of months has been about 650. The number represents people who are weekly certifying their unemployment status with Job Service. Davis said nine weeks is the average a North Dakotan remains on unemployment.
"Out of that 650, roughly 60% of those people are going back to their employer," he said. "The employer might have shut down for a few weeks or shut down to clean their facility. That maybe gives us 200 people every week who are unemployed. So there's not a lot to choose from for our employers."
Employees are finding jobs. There are more than 18,000 job listings on the Job Service website. According to Davis, the number of available jobs might be closer to 40,000 because employers are jumping at the chance to hire good, qualified workers.
"If you're an employer and have an opening for a welder and two quality welders come in, you're probably going to hire both in this market right now," he said.
Barry Wilfahrt, Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Chamber CEO and president, said the plethora of help-wanted signs in the area point out the urgent need for workers. In Grand Forks County, unemployment is at 1.5%.
3. North Dakota launches public missing persons database
There's a new online tool for North Dakota police and citizens to access information on people who have gone missing in the state.
North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley announced Friday, Nov. 4, a public database containing information about all active missing persons cases in the state.
The database contains details about the 114 missing people in North Dakota, including demographic information, photos and the date they were last seen. The online resource also has special search functions for Native Americans and children who are missing.
Native Americans make up more than half of the state's missing persons despite accounting for just 6% of the population. Indigenous communities across North America have mounted campaigns to raise awareness for the disproportionate rate of missing Native people. Federal officials have referred to missing and murdered Indigenous people as an epidemic.
Violence against Native women is 10 times higher than the national average, according to the Indigenous Rights Center. Activists rallied in support of missing and murdered Indigenous people at the North Dakota Capitol last year.
Fifty-two of North Dakota's missing people are children, many of whom are Native American, according to the database.
The oldest case in the database comes from 1968, while more than 20 of the people in the index were last seen within the last month.
4. Some F-M businesses thrive in remote, hybrid work demand, while others struggle
The Fargo-Moorhead business landscape will never return to how it was before the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic sent a wave of employees from hundreds of area businesses home to work remotely, where many of those employees say they found a better work-life balance.
They could go on a morning run instead of commuting 30 minutes to the office, could cook a healthy lunch instead of spending money on fast food, and they learned how much they value the extra time earned with family and friends.
Area businesses have heard these same statements over the past year from their employees. And they’re listening by switching to fully-remote or a hybrid of in- and out-of-office work models.
Industries switching to remote or hybrid include information technology and other desk jobs that rely heavily on internet and communications.
“Hybrid work has really changed our organization for the better,” said Kelsey Roth, vice president of human resources at Blue Cross Blue Shield . “I think it’s because, with our focus on employee wellbeing, we’re able to provide them opportunities to work where they’re at their best.”
5. Do you have an outdoor cat? The Forum would like to chat
The Forum is looking to interview cat owners for a story about outdoor cats in the cities of Moorhead, Fargo or West Fargo.
While Fargo law does not allow cats outside unless they are on a leash, pet owners nevertheless often let their cats roam free. The Forum wants to hear your story about what it's like to own an outdoor cat.