JT tends to ask me the following question: “What worries me about the outlook for ND?” Over the last few years I answered that there was not much. That was then, this is now. North Dakota hit its first oil price catastrophe for this round of the oil boom and we are watching to see the consequences. One of the issues that worries me has to do with the demographics for the state as a whole. In this piece I will focus on the 65-and-over population and later on we can talk about other dimensions.
JT and I talked many times about pensions and the unfortunate arithmetic behind most defined-benefit pensions. We keep seeing issues arise with the pensions in places like Detroit, or now Illinois. To reiterate, I have no issue with the defined-benefit pension plan in theory. The issues I have focus on the management, or should I say mismanagement, of the pension plan. The mismanagement really falls into two categories: investment of pension fund assets bordering on fraud and, a seemingly willful ignorance about the changes in life spans for people (in this case plan recipients).
I have yet to pay serious attention to the political actors running for President from the two major parties, though JT keeps threatening to ask me about this on the radio. I think it too early to take any candidacy seriously at this point, at least from a policy perspective. What do I mean by this?
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.