As a topic, the economics of housing in North Dakota creates a significant amount of debate. This debate lacks consistency, ground rules, and facts. Most of the discussion takes place under the umbrella term of “affordable housing.” On numerous occasions I indicated the inadequacy of this term. The first problem is that it seems assumed the mere assertion of an “affordable housing” problem is adequate substitute for actual evidence of a problem. The second is a failure to recognize the differing nature of a potential problem when we are talking about a retired couple, a newly married young couple, or a family of five. An “affordable housing” problem for each of these three groups could look significantly different and require drastically different solutions. How much of a solution do we want? There are times it seems people want a 100% solution, by which I mean everyone that wants a house should have one in their price range. It is not that kind of world! Let’s make sure it is on the block they want too.
We reached that level finally. The straw man of a housing price issue in Grand Forks (and North Dakota for that matter)pushed us all into the merry old land of Oz. The article in the Grand Forks Herald (September 21, 2014 “A price problem?) is the latest effort in a litany of faulty economic reasoning.
A recent report out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (available as a pdf here) looks at the connection between state tax rates and migration between states. Or maybe it does not. They find little connection between changes in state tax rates and the migration between states.
I have not looked at oil production time series for North Dakota in a while so I thought it time to take a look. Oil production, in fact most commodity production, and certainly extractive production, has an interesting cost structure. There are significant fixed cost elements to cover in order to generate profit. Notice in the graph below that while price starts rising around 2000, it was not until around 2005 that production started to rise. As the price continues to rise we see production continue to increase too.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released data on employment and unemployment from the Current Employment Statistics survey. North Dakota was number one in the country with a 4.4% increase in total nonfarm employment from year ago levels. That is 12 consecutive months where the year-over-year percent change was at or above 3%, and something like 55 months in a row that the number was positive. This is a pretty stellar performance.