What is the importance of the oil industry to employment in North Dakota? This is a really good question, and one that is not necessarily the easiest to answer. In the last year this same question generated all kinds of arguments about the relative importance of agriculture versus oil in the North Dakota economy. That debate is not the purpose of this post though.
The growth occurring in North Dakota as a whole, and in most of the sub regions within the states, is quite impressive as media stories no doubt impart. Being a dismal scientist I pointed out many times here and on the Jarrod Thomas Show (1310 KNOX AM, shameless plug I know) that the growth in the oil patch represented a potential constraint on growth in communities like Grand Forks. While many disagreed with me I offer up the following trends that should give people pause.
The big story for North Dakota is not just about oil in western North Dakota, it is about the adjustments to the underlying economic dynamics in the state. Consider the situation of labor markets in two North Dakota cities, Williston and Grand Forks. These data are for the Williston micropolitan area and the Grand Forks metropolitan area from 1997 to the end of 2013.