I am often asked about the relative position of oil and other industries in the ND economy. Usually this is me being asked to settle a dispute between industries as to who is more important or some such nonsense. However, the issue of oil in the North Dakota economy is worth revisiting right now given the decline in oil price and the effects on the state revenue forecast.
The recent drops and volatility in commodities markets, particularly oil, are well-known. One of the big ongoing questions for the state of North Dakota is the impact on the state economy of these new developments in oil. We have seen that oil and gas output is not necessarily suffering with the price decreases or volatility. So where are the effects? You might expect to see it in a graph of labor force, like this:
Recently I visited New York City and had occasion to talk with some people about the situation with oil in North Dakota. The question on their mind has to do with the continued high level of oil production despite the decreased price. Rather than total amount of oil produced, or barrels per day, let’s consider a different measurement, the amount of oil per rig.
The subtitle of this post could be bludgeoning the reader with numbers, but oh well.
As I mentioned in last week’s post (available here) there was a scheduled update to the detailed data on state-level real GDP this week. With any update like this there are many different dimensions to consider. The first aspect to consider is the release of new data. New data provides us an updated look at the state of the economy and (hopefully) a better sense of the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly. In these releases there are also updates to the older data. More complete information is available as time passes so we get a better look at what happened in the recent past.
In the last several years the majority of attention regarding energy production in North Dakota focused on oil and gas. The increased contribution of energy (oil and gas in particular) to GDP growth was significant as I showed before. The other day I watched a train with at least fifty cars full of coal go by and I wondered what happened with coal production over the last few years.
I imagine the different sectors of economic activity in any state argue about their relative importance. Lately the contest in North Dakota has been about the relative importance of agriculture and mining. My personal opinion is that if the data support an actual argument of this point than you are fortunate enough. These debates rage though and so I tend to investigate. There are many different ways to approach these types of questions but I am not going to go through a refereeing of different methods. I will just go through what I think the data are trying to impart to us.
Most recent discussion of oil markets focused on prices and the volatility of price movements. These are surely very important, and the driver of almost everything else happening in energy markets. Looking at North Dakota here is the percentage change in labor force (year-over-year) for North Dakota as a whole and for the four core Bakken oil counties.
So I told my forecasting students I would post what I taught them today. I project monthly ND oil prices forward to the end of 2016. The following graph is the result of this process.
The latest, greatest way to track performance in the U.S. oil industry is to look at the rig count released by Baker Hughes (see this Bloomberg article for a bit of discussion and links). The rig count was down 64 as U.S. oil companies continued retrenching in the face of lower oil prices.
The December numbers for employment came out and I thought we would look at the mining category (which includes logging) against the West Texas Intermediate crude price per barrel. What we see is the following: