Where strippers make more than most doctors.
Where flipping burgers pays more than twice the federal minimum wage.
Welcome to the Next Great American Boomtown: Williston, North Dakota.
Yes, you heard right.
While the rest of the nation is struggling to create more jobs and pay down their debts, Williston proudly boasts an unemployment rate of less than 1% and the state of North Dakota is expected to run a $1 billion surplus for the next two years.
Now you’re probably thinking, how the heck is a town with a population fewer than 25,000 residents able to do what every other city in America is only dreaming of doing?
The reasons are simple: oil and gas.
Tiny Williston and neighboring communities just like it are undergoing an economic explosion like no other region in the country, all thanks to the absurd amount of oil reserves that are sitting beneath them.
Some sources estimate that the prolific Bakken formation holds as much as 24 billion barrels of oil. With global energy demand as high as it’s ever been, job growth in the region has reached epic proportions.
It’s now at a point where Williston is experiencing a severe housing shortage due to the record number of migrants flooding in to find work.
People from far and wide can’t help but be lured to the prospect of making wages beyond their wildest dreams.
Even the local taco stand can afford to offer a starting wage of $15 per hour.
And if you’re one of those keeners whose real reason for coming to North Dakota was to work in the oil fields – you’ve just jumped a few more notches up the employment food chain.
You see, even someone who’s fresh out of high school can qualify as an oil well wireline operator and bank $120K a year.
That’s certainly a stark contrast to what’s happening elsewhere in the country, where the average unemployment rate is still stuck above 8%.
The community of Williston saw the oil and gas industry as their ticket to prosperity and welcomed it with open arms; reaping the rich economic benefits that the sector brought with it.
If job creation is one of our nation’s key goals, then Williston’s success story might be something that others (even our government) can aspire to.
Jobs Flow when Oil Flows
Despite the country’s unemployment line showing little sign of shortening, the oil and gas sector is bucking the trend as its payroll continues to grow.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, oil & gas extraction jobs have increased over 37 percent to 193,000 jobs in the last five years. In just the past year alone, the industry created more than 21,500 new jobs.
That’s over 60 new employees every single day.
In the World Economic Forum’s own report, it saw the oil and natural gas industry create approximately 9% (or 37,000) of new US jobs in 2011.
That’s almost one in ten! But there’s more good news…
The WEF report goes on to state that a further 111,000 jobs were born through the supply chain of goods and services to the oil and gas sector.
In other words, for every new position created in the industry, three more jobs are produced.
And it’s towns like Williston that are directly benefiting from this multiplier phenomenon.
In fact, they can’t seem to build homes fast enough to accommodate their dramatic population growth.
That’s definitely a good problem to have during these tough economic times.
Perhaps there’ll come a time when domestic oil and gas will help to alleviate all our financial and employment woes, and more boomtowns like Williston can be created in the process.
If demand for energy continues unabated, that time could come sooner than we think.
In the meantime, the people of the Peace Garden State are living the prosperous American dream, virtually immune to the hardships being felt elsewhere.
If you’re feeling the pinch and desperate for a paycheck, this might be a good time to join them.
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