This is a follow up story about the push by state Republicans in an attempt to attract workers to come to North Dakota to fill approximately 20, 000 jobs.  In a new recruiting campaign to be rolled out in May, the North Dakota Economic Development Foundation is aiming to fill more than 20,000 jobs — ranging from truck drivers and oilfield workers to receptionists and food servers.  North Dakota’s huge oil boom has spurred thousands of job seekers to flock to the state for years now.  In some cities, the population has quadrupled.

Yet, the growth continues and companies are still so desperate for workers that the state is teaming up with oil giant Hess Corporation to launch an $800,000 campaign to attract new talent.  It is being developed to target people in states with chronic unemployment, and people in industries that include: engineering, healthcare, energy, skilled trades, transportation, and information technology.  The state is also trying to convince potential employees that North Dakota is not only a good place to get a job, but a great place to live, dubbing it the “Find the Good Life in North Dakota.”

Now here is the rest of the story.

While homelessness nationwide has declined in the past year, the number of people living in shelters or on the streets in North Dakota has tripled to 2,069, according to data released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  And that increase is likely understated since it doesn’t count all the homeless people who are staying in motels, RVs or other people’s homes.

Meanwhile, North Dakota has become the nation’s second largest oil producing state, boasting the fastest growing economy in the country.  As a result, oil companies have been hiring like crazy, paying high wages to those who are willing to relocate.  The town of Williston, which is at the center of the action, has seen its population more than double from 14,715 people in 2010 to 33,547 last year as workers flock to the area.  The Census Bureau also ranked Williston as the fastest growing small city in the country last year.  In drilling hotspots like Williston, Dickinson and Watford City, it’s easy to find jobs paying six-figure salaries in the oilfields or driving trucks.  Unemployment is around 1% in Williston and less than 3% in North Dakota as a whole — compared to 7% nationwide.

But housing has been slow to catch up with the influx of people.  Demand has led the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment to shoot up to between $2,500 and $3,000 per month, compared to $500 a month a few years ago.  And while a number of new housing developments are in the works, they’re not coming online fast enough to keep up with the number of people who need housing.

Watford City borders Williston and has seen its population jump from 1,600 to more than 12,000 in the past three years.  The town now boasts seven motels, all of which are completely booked with workers.  As a result, people have been sleeping in cars, RVs, tents, or even on the streets — either because they can’t find permanent housing or because the housing available is too expensive.  At the beginning of the boom, many people were sleeping in the local Walmart parking lot.  Watford City never saw homelessness before the current oil boom.  There may be enough jobs to go around, but if you show up to the area without any relevant skills or experience, it’s going to be harder, and take a lot longer, to find one.

And because of the sudden surge in the homeless population, there’s a lack of resources, like shelters. In its report, HUD cited “a critical need for available shelter beds, with state officials reporting only two shelters available in the region.”

At the K-12 public school in Watford City, 263 students — or about 25% of those enrolled in the school were identified as homeless this year.  The local Salvation Army is even helping some people purchase tickets back home after they arrive in North Dakota looking for jobs and end up homeless.

In Williston, a town at the center of the boom, home prices has more than tripled and rent there is currently the highest in the nation.

Along with a housing crunch, crime has skyrocketed, traffic is grueling, and local restaurants and retailers struggle to keep up with the surge in demand resulting in higher prices and longer waits.

And, of course, there are always the below-freezing temperatures, with wind chills plunging under negative 50 during the winters.

Now, here is what I was able to find about those 20,000 jobs that are available in North Dakota.  The actual number of jobs as of today was 20, 444.  490 jobs were for salaries of  $80,000 to $100,000+, 853 jobs were for salaries of $60,000 to $80,000, 1798 jobs were for salaries of $40,000 to $60,000, 4886 jobs were for salaries of $20,000 to $40,000, and finally;  12417 jobs or 61% were for salaries under $20,000.

Since a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in Williston costs an average of $2,394 a month, according to Apartment Guide, and the average family should spend no more than 30% of their budget for rent.  That person would need to earn, at least, $90,000 per year.  So, to live in Williston your job choices are around 244 possible jobs which are in fact spread out across the whole entire state.  So, 90% of these 20,000+ jobs do not pay enough to affordably allow you to live in Williston, North Dakota.

The other interesting fact is that of these 20,444 jobs, 9749 or 48% are part-time, contract jobs, intern positions, or temporary positions.

 

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