The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The Facts are Clear: Energy Means Jobs

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted December 6, 2013

Say Anything Blog’s Rob Port has a suggestion for workers in different parts of the country who are dissatisfied with how much they’re earning in their present jobs: Come to North Dakota.

As Port and economics/energy blogger Mark J. Perry point out, North Dakota’s thriving economy, driven largely by surging oil and natural gas development (thanks, fracking!), is producing outrageously low unemployment – and rigorous competition for workers. You don’t have to be Milton Friedman to recognize that economic growth + worker demand = growing wages.

Port and Perry cite recent government statistics showing that North Dakota had the top three metropolitan areas in the country in terms of low unemployment of 372 areas measured: Bismarck (1.7 percent), Fargo (2.3 percent) and Grand Forks (2.5 percent). In October, 21 of the state’s 53 counties reported jobless rates of 2 percent or less. Port:

North Dakota is desperate for workers. Labor shortages are a topic of much discussion (case in point). As a result, wages are going up. North Dakota is leading the nation in growth of personal incomes. That’s an interesting juxtaposition to the national debate right now over a “living wage.” Labor-backed protesters want the government to mandate a higher minimum wage (despite the fact that the minimum wage was invented to drive marginal workers out of the labor market). But here in North Dakota, the proof is in the pudding. Economic growth is the best way to drive up wages and increase prosperity.

Perry furnishes this chart showing how North Dakota employment has compared with the U.S. It’s not hard to see when energy development in the Bakken started rockin’:


Perry writes that North Dakota “might have the best labor market on the planet,” with nearly two job openings for every one unemployed worker. This market is led by Williams County (in the heart of the Bakken shale play) with an unemployment rate of .49 percent. Perry:

That’s a jobless rate below 1/2 of 1%, which also means that 99.51% of the labor force in Williams County is working (45,900 payroll employees in a labor force of 46,158 persons, with only 228 workers being classified as unemployed in October), and is about as close to achieving “full employment” as you can get! … Thanks to the state’s booming energy sector, North Dakota continues to deserve recognition as the nation’s “economic miracle state,” with the strongest labor market in the country, maybe in all of The Americas, and maybe in the entire world, thanks to America’s Shale Revolution. Carpe oleum

That’s “seize the oil” for those (like me) who missed Latin in school. And that’s what they’re doing in North Dakota and other energy-rich states, fueling economic growth locally, regionally, in other states and in other industry sectors.

Circling back to workers seeking for better opportunities, think energy – whether it’s direct industry employment, work in energy industry-supporting sectors or in other work situations that are riding the economic wave generated by energy development.

For our country, the energy renaissance urges policies that allow the surge to grow and spread: increased access to domestic reserves, sensible regulation and other measures that help encourage investment, development – and more North Dakotas.  


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.