To hear some people talk of the oil boom, you’d think it was doing nothing for North Dakota. You’d think the state had been invaded by interests from beyond its borders who were exploiting the resources here and taking all the profits elsewhere.
Of course, that’s hard to square with reality. North Dakota has rock-bottom low unemployment rates. At times there are roughly twice as many job openings as people collecting unemployment benefits. Personal income growth is faster here than in any other state.
And, oh yeah, North Dakota just shot up 14 spots on the ranking of states by millionaires per capita:
In 2012, North Dakota ranked 43rd, one spot behind Alabama. Last year, it moved up to 29th, one ahead of Florida. North Dakota’s energy boom, especially in the Bakken shale region, is driving the state’s wealth gains. But its people in the oil patch aren’t about to flaunt it.
“The only way you know a Bakken millionaire is he’ll be driving a new truck and might have taken his wife on vacation,” said Kelvin Hullet, president of the chamber of commerce in Bismarck, the state capital.
This has presented a real problem for North Dakota Democrats who, philosophically, hate “big oil” but as a practical matter must embrace it given the oil industry’s undeniable importance to North Dakota’s well being. Which has lead to some interesting juxtapositions of rhetoric and policy.