Why you might not want to move to North Dakota after all

Despite offering a wealth of job opportunities and a better-than-living wage, there are very few places to live. Most workers strive to get into one of the many "Man Camps." (Photo: Robert Johnson, Business Insider)

Yes, there are a lot of jobs there, the majority of them requiring no more than a high school education.

North Dakota is now the fourth-largest oil-producing state in the U.S., recently passing Louisiana. At the present rate of growth, it will knock California from third place later this year. The unemployment rate in the state has dropped to 3.3 percent, the lowest in the nation. The unemployment rate in the Williston area, in the heart of oil country, is less than one percent. Business growth in the western counties continues. The average salary in the five northwest counties is at an all-time high of almost $60,000, a 79 percent increase since 2007, but the cost of living has also rocketed.

But there are associated problems with this situation, especially for long-time residents.

For starters, the region is a case study in an inflationary economy. As residents’ earnings soar, so too do the costs of goods and services. “Anything you can think of that a person would consume is also being consumed by folks in the oil industry,” says Dennis Lindahl, a city councilman in Stanley. “Merchants are able to charge an increased rate. Folks in town sometimes get a little upset from supporting the industry while not receiving benefits.”

The biggest struggle in the region, though, is the shortage of housing. When people in other parts of the country talk about a “housing shortage,” they don’t mean it literally. There are usually still plenty of available places for residents making decent money. But when people in western North Dakota discuss the housing shortage, they’re serious. There’s literally no place to sleep.

The current oil boom, the third North Dakota has experienced since 1951, is possible now because of two things: the fracking that now makes it possible to extract oil from otherwise unproductive deposits and the high oil prices that make it cost effective to do so. And booms never seem to last long.

If you want pictures, here you are.


  1. I worked in the West Texas oil fields for a year. It’s dirty, dangerous, nasty work. But for say, adventurous young men, North Dakota could be a great place to stockpile money before deciding what to do next. If you are able-bodied, breathing, and willing to work seven days a day endlessly, you can probably get a job there.

  2. Really? You wrote 4 sentences and linked to pictures of people working hard to provide for their families. I can understand why liberals would be opposed to a robust economy based on hard work instead of people eking out their survival based on handouts from the government….sad. How is the “green” economy working out for you?

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