The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Energy Stimulus: 'When You Create Jobs, You Attract People'

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted January 2, 2014

Saw this tweet from the Washington Post earlier this week, linking to a story on new population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau:

Basically, population is growing faster in the South and West than anywhere else in the country – and North Dakota’s 3.1 percent growth rate leads the nation. The second largest percentage increase was Utah’s 1.6 percent. The Post:

The annual estimates of state population on July 1 shows the South added more than 1.1 million residents between 2012 and 2013, while Western states added almost 728,000 residents over the past year. Northeastern states added 171,000 residents, while the Midwest added another 226,000 people. Many of those new Midwestern residents landed in North Dakota, which added 22,000 residents over the past year. That was a 3.1 percent population increase, the highest of any state in the country, fueled by an energy boom in the Bakken oil fields that has pushed the state’s unemployment rate down to 2.6 percent.

Of course, there are a number of reasons why population grows faster in one state or region over another. And North Dakota’s increase of 22,000 residents compares with six-figure growth in states like California, Texas and Florida.

Still, it’s certainly fair to look to oil and natural gas development as the major stimulus to a number of benefits: job and economic growth that in turn is drawing new people to the state at a remarkable rate. Prairie Business magazine:

North Dakota’s new record doesn’t count the droves of out-of-state workers who travel to the state for jobs, many staying for weeks at a time – a figure that State Census Office Manager Kevin Iverson roughly estimated could be as high as 40,000 to 60,000 people, though he acknowledged that with limited data, it’s “really tough to get a handle on it.” Regardless, the July 2013 record is evidence that new residents are flocking to North Dakota, Iverson said. “This is clearly migration,” he said.


After being one of the few states to lose population in the early 2000s, North Dakota has gained population every year since 2004’s estimate of about 645,000. The state has added about 78,000 residents since then, driven in part by oil and gas mining activity in the western half of the state. North Dakota State University researchers Nancy Hodur and Dean Bangsund, who have been studying population growth in North Dakota’s oil patch, said they were not surprised by the Census estimates. “We’ve got a smoking white-hot economy right now and that creates jobs. And when you create jobs, you attract people,” Hodur said.

The larger point is that with the right policies the benefits North Dakota is seeing from oil and natural gas development can result in other states where domestic reserves are located. Increased access – whether in the West, on the U.S. outer continental shelf or elsewhere – would result in new energy development, job creation and economic stimulus. IHS estimates unconventional oil and natural gas development from shale and other tight-rock formations will support 3.3 million jobs by 2020 and more than $468 billion in annual contributions to GDP.

We’re in the early stages of an American energy revolution, the local/regional benefits of which are tangible in North Dakota, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states. Energy for America and greater prosperity for Americans – if we choose it.


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.