OIL FIELDS: ND oil boom draws job-seekers from around the countryWILLISTON, N.D. – People from all over the country are flocking to western North Dakota for job opportunities related to the oil boom.
By: By Amy Dalrymple, New Richmond News
WILLISTON, N.D. – People from all over the country are flocking to western North Dakota for job opportunities related to the oil boom.
The northwest North Dakota community of Williston, recently named the fastest micropolitan community in the nation, has an unemployment rate of less than 1 percent and reports an average annual wage of $71,000, according to the city’s economic development office.
The boom is attributed to oil development in the Bakken shale, the oil-rich formation covering parts of North Dakota and eastern Montana.
Geologists have known for years about the potential of the Bakken, but it took advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to take advantage of it.
North Dakota passed Alaska in March to become the second-leading state in crude oil production, trailing only Texas.
Williston is in the heart of the oil boom, with 90 percent of drilling rigs located within a 70-mile radius. About a third of Williston’s employment base is in the oil and gas industry, officials say.
Experts say the oil boom will be a sustained boom, with new wells likely to be drilled for the next 15 or more years and many workers needed for oil production after the wells are drilled. The average lifespan of a well is 28 years.
In addition to oilfield jobs, the boom also has created a huge demand for truck drivers, construction workers, law enforcement and service workers. Wages are typically higher than other areas of the country, with retail and service jobs often paying $15 an hour plus signing bonuses.
Communities around Williston are experiencing similar population influxes and demand for workers.
But a housing crisis in northwest North Dakota makes it difficult for many of the newcomers. Hotels are full of workers and single family homes often house more than one family. Temporary man camp facilities, which have rows of cabins or dormitory-style rooms, house thousands of workers.
Many people live in campers or their vehicles, even during winter months. Those who can find apartments pay as much as $2,500 per month.
Local officials encourage people to find housing before coming to North Dakota for work.
While the oil boom is providing the state of North Dakota with tremendous new tax revenue, it also means big challenges and expenses for public schools, road maintenance, law enforcement, sanitation and other government services.