The old saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. Clearly the idea is that one good image could relay information better than a lengthy description. There are two issues with that: 1) it needs to be the right graph, and 2) the graph may need at least some explanation. I think this is true of the North Dakota oil story right now. Those who watch these things will not find anything new or exciting in the following graph.
After the boom comes the bust, or so we are told. One of the more interesting questions for North Dakota is the extent of the pain, if any, felt during the bust, and how it ends up distributed across the state. To help answer this question we need to continue analysis of the circumstances of growth in North Dakota during this century. Call it a Nearby Economic History. A better understanding of the process of economic growth in the state is 1) important in its own right (knowledge for its own sake is seldom bad), and 2) potentially useful information as the state discusses policies going forward.
I am making a presentation to a group of retired UND faculty this morning on the topic of oil and the North Dakota economy. It is more of a free-flowing discussion than a chalk-and-talk format so I will add interesting comments later after I hear them. Oil is clearly a transformative event in the North Dakota economy. We can have an argument about the relative importance of different sectors all we want, but the emergence of the energy economy was an enormous factor in the early 2000s. Looking at the graph below I make the following observation: we are at the end of the first boom-bust cycle in the oil industry in North Dakota. That’s all this is. We have not run out of oil and it is not, at least yet, an industry regulated out of existence.
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.
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: