My posting has been light, well nonexistent, as I am switching to a different web host. That should be finished soon and posting will continue. However, I looked at some labor market data for North Dakota cities and had to put together a quick post.
Just a brief post about employment since the oil boom ended. As we are all aware we went right into a bust after the boom, which is not always the case, but that is a topic for another day. With that in mind I looked at the employment data since that time, essentially early 2015. Now keep in mind there were significant gains made, and I am not even close to claiming that we gave up all the gains, but we can identify the specific change event so it makes sense to look at variables after that event.
The BLS data for Williston continue to tell an unfortunate story of the rapid rise in employment and, for the most part, an equally dramatic reversal. One of the most frequent questions asked about this is whether there will be a reversal of the latest trend when (if?) oil prices recover. I think the jury is out on that front.
The future is always uncertain, but it seems that labor markets in the core Bakken counties could be having their Mark Twain moment: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” My central argument here is not that the markets are not correcting, and I am not suggesting declines in employment will not happen, though the extent of that decide is obviously debatable. At some level, you might expect people to welcome the pause in the employment growth occurring now. It could reduce pressures in the other related areas such as housing. Regardless of any decline, the data show that employment is still more than twice the level from just 5 years ago (see figure below).
I had to finish the statistics and report for a grant project so there was a break from the blogging. Now that the Cubs are actually playing meaningful baseball in October I am not sure how often I will get back to this, but I will try. I mentioned this graph recently when talking with local business people and thought I would replicate it here.
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:
A little follow-up to the postings on employment, particularly for the one about Grand Forks (here). Talking with JT on the radio today, or maybe it was off-air, the difference between city and county came up. So let’s take a look at this:
What is the likely effect of oil price declines on the Grand Forks regional economy? This is a question I get quite often right now, and it is difficult to answer. While I investigate I thought we could look at the employment situation in Grand Forks county over the last several years. There are a couple of interesting things to consider. First, let’s consider the percent change, year-over-year, in Grand Forks county employment.
I thought I would update some of the employment numbers I posted before on the site. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released revised numbers for October and preliminary numbers for November. Based on these releases employment from October 2014 to November 2014 declined by 4,291. (Cue dramatic music.) Of course this is a great concern for many, and I do not fault them for that. Oil and gas extraction, and the closely related industries, were clear growth leaders for the state as a whole over the last few years. But let’s take a closer look.
The importance of oil to recent economic performance in North Dakota is well-documented. As the biennial legislative session gets underway the price declines of the last several months are likely on everyone’s mind, and rightly so. This Wall Street Journal article details the difficult decisions facing oil companies in the relatively near future as far as capital spending, dividends, and other expenditures are concerned. This New York Times article discusses the scaling back in rigs across the country due to lower oil prices.