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.
The issue of property tax valuations is a familiar one to most people in North Dakota. I came across this article about the situation in Michigan through a tweet. It is about a month old but it raises some interesting questions. The focus of the debate in North Dakota, as far as I ever heard, has been property taxes paid by individual homeowners. In Michigan businesses are challenging valuations, winning, and the local areas are dealing with revenue shortfalls as a result.
This is something of a followup to the discussions from the radio last week. I did some looking at the “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report” from the North Dakota Retirement and Investment Office to see what I could find related to the position of the pensions in North Dakota. For those not aware, pensions are a huge issue across the country these days. They came under fire in the case of Detroit; unfairly blamed in my opinion for the eventual bankruptcy of the city. Recently the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution prevented a renegotiation of the retirement benefits. We will see how that proceeds as Illinois is in a dire fiscal situation.