They're Still Hiring In North Dakota's Oil Patch


A drilling rig operates on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, south of Tioga, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

The drilling jobs have dried up, and oil boom-inflated salaries have dried up. Developers who built too many hotels and apartments and homes are feeling the pinch and, in the midst of an election cycle, some political candidates have taken on apocalyptic tones to bolster their bids for public office.

But on the whole? The job market in the oil patch still seems pretty strong.

Case in point:

North Dakota Job Services Manager Cindy Sanford said 779 job openings were posted in Williams County last month. Of that number, 300 jobs are slated to be advertised this Wednesday and Thursday at the Grand Williston Hotel and Conference Center.

The lucrative job market still entices phone calls from all over the country from individuals who fly in or take the train just for the event.

While the layoffs in the oil industry have led some to believe that Williston is a drying job market, Sanford spoke to the contrary and pointed out how the scene has instead shifted to job markets spurred as a result of the oilfield.

“We used to have one day just for oil field jobs and the next day for other jobs,” Sanford said. “Now we can combine them.”

While wages aren’t inflated to what was seen in 2012, there are still job availabilities, though many employers are now looking for individuals with higher skill sets to fill those positions.

The problem with the public perception of North Dakota’s economic downturn is that everyone keeps measuring the post-oil boom normal against the excesses of the oil boom itself.

A better measure, I think, is to compare the new normal post-boom to pre-boom numbers. And by that measure, the state is still doing pretty good.

Jobs are up. State revenues are still way up over pre-boom levels (budget shortfalls are caused by spending, not revenues).

Some – be it for political reasons or just curmudgeonly preference for cynicism – want to say that North Dakota is headed for a bust. But I think the story of post-oil boom North Dakota will be one of a more populous, more prosperous state overall.