Jobs boom beyond Oil PatchThe gusher of economic activity flowing from the boom in North Dakota’s Oil Patch often is reflexively credited with single-handedly driving the state’s impressive growth. But figures from Job Service North Dakota make it clear that the robust prosperity and employment growth are occurring statewide.
By: The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, The Jamestown Sun
The gusher of economic activity flowing from the boom in North Dakota’s Oil Patch often is reflexively credited with single-handedly driving the state’s impressive growth. But figures from Job Service North Dakota make it clear that the robust prosperity and employment growth are occurring statewide.
The 24,059 job openings listed online at Job Service as of April reflect a jump of 66 percent over a year ago — and two-thirds of the opportunities are outside the state’s oil-producing counties. The fact that two of every three job openings are outside the Oil Patch often is lost in the hubbub surrounding the impressive growth in oil and gas production, which undeniably have helped to spur growth in other sectors of the economy. In Williston, 10 jobs are available for every one unemployed person.
It’s noteworthy that many of the openings in Fargo require advanced training in fields including business, finance, computers, architecture and engineering. Importantly, those positions, as Gov. Jack Dalrymple noted, tend to be stable. History tells us that oil and gas development is, of course, prone to ups and downs.
The lure of high pay for oilfield jobs has some high school graduates planning to work a few years before moving on to college or other post-secondary education. It’s easy to understand those who want to save money to avoid the pitfalls of heavy debt that so often saddle college graduates — underscoring the importance of college students thinking seriously about the jobs and salaries their chosen field of study can prepare them to pursue.
But young people who are pulled by the siren song of fat Oil Patch paychecks would be wise to take the advice of career counselors who emphasize the importance of skills training and certification so they have a trade they can depend upon.
It’s also important to note that the demand for higher-level skills appears to be growing in the Oil Patch. Weekly jobs reports reveal a trend toward more technically trained energy workforce, according to the head of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. Math and science skills, he emphasized, are important in the Oil Patch, as they are everywhere.
Unskilled workers have been particularly hard hit by the recession and anemic recovery in much of the country. The jobs of the future, even in oil country, increasingly demand a high level of skill. Even an impressive oil boom doesn’t alter that truism.