Everyone worrying that North Dakota’s current boom is on the verge of the burst could be getting more anxious by some recent economic news. North Dakota no longer has the lowest job rate in the country. In April, there were 99 fewer oil rigs drilling than there had been a year ago. But the news is hardly bleak. North Dakota now has the second lowest job rate in the country, 2.9% versus Nebraska’s 2.7%. There are still 21,000 jobs available in the state. The fall in oil prices has affected North Dakota’s growing economy but nothing is about to burst or go away.
While there have been some layoffs from the oil rigs, the North Dakota government has approved a smart infrastructure overhaul for Western North Dakota that will provide construction jobs and build for the long haul.
Areas like Watford City are seeing reverse migration these days as people who left after high school because they thought they couldn’t find a job are now coming home. Watford City, as an example, has grown to nearly 15,000 people. Along with more jobs, there are more services for the new and returning citizens, like expanded Watford City Satellite Internet, new stores, new dance studios, and new jobs for teachers and guidance counselors. Medical services are expanding to meet the demand. It’s not just people working directly on the oil rigs who have jobs, jobs are available for the things the oil industry workers need to live good lives.
Prices fall and people forecast doom. But oil production only fell about 1% in February of 2015. Industry insiders expect each month will see the same 1% decline until June or so when tax incentives come into play and production goes back up. The oil is still there. The oil will last for years and new regulations will make drilling safer for the environment and everyone living around the wells. The services and businesses supporting the new oil production will still be here in the years to come as oil prices rise and fall.
Maybe North Dakota’s economy has stopped growing like it’s on steroids, but that doesn’t mean growth is about to stop. Slower growth can mean more long term prosperity. That’s nothing to worry about.