The number of out-of-state job seekers posting resumes to the North Dakota Job Service database has dropped by about two-thirds from its peak in January 2012, but this in no way indicates that growth in North Dakota is slowing.
While North Dakota still has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate — 2.7 percent as of October — things are improving elsewhere, meaning its feasible for people to find similar jobs near their homes rather than moving to North Dakota.
“We’re seeing some strength in the national economy and therefore those people that — many of them were applying to North Dakota during times when there wasn’t much available in the rest of the country, and now that there are more jobs available in the rest of the country, I can see why some of those folks would try to get jobs close to home,” said Gaylon Baker, executive director of the Stark County Development Corp.
Many job seekers are geocentric, said Michael Ziesch, labor market information co-manager for Job Service.
“People tend to want to stick around home or their home state,” Ziesch said. “If they have to look out of state, often times it’s a college graduate that’s going to see the big world. Often times the job seeker looking in North Dakota, it’s simply because of opportunity.”
Jobs in the energy industry aren’t affected as much as the ancillary jobs in the community, Baker said. Energy companies move their highly skilled workers where they are needed.
“We get a few here and there that are out of state, but it’s not like it used to be,” said Marcy Brannen, manager of UCP Personnel Services in Dickinson. “In our jobs I’m actually posting ‘local prefered’ just so the locals will apply for it.”
At Job Service, the agency is seeing a similar trend, Ziesch said.
“We certainly can use the job seekers,” Ziesch said. “It’s still about 2-to-1 open and available positions versus resumes.”
One reason for the drop in resumes is that people are finding jobs through potential employers before making plans to move to North Dakota, Baker said.
“Hopefully that message has gotten out more,” Baker said. “One of the things that Job Service as well as ourselves and others have done is try to make sure that people, before they come here, try to get a job lined up and housing lined up, so that when they get here they can just launch.”
But that can make it hard for people like Brannen, who have positions that need to be filled with qualified workers.
“Either the positions stay open because we can’t get anybody in or they close out the position and they try to get a couple of different people to fill it internally,” Brannen said. This hasn’t been an issue in the past.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated North Dakota’s 2012 population at 699,628, up 27,037 from the official census two years previous. In 2008 there were less than 450,000 licensed drivers in North Dakota, according to data from the North Dakota Department of Transportation. There was a slight increase in 2010 to just above 450,000 licensed drivers, but in 2012 that number increased to 509,000 licensed drivers.
“Simply that we’re seeing fewer applicants at Job Service does not mean that we’re seeing fewer people coming in,” Baker said.
While growth isn’t stopping anytime soon, it could slow ever so slightly, Ziesch said.
“We’re going to see things plateau as they get all the leases affirmed, we’re going to see a little bit of a plateau in that transition from the active exploration and the drilling into more of a stable production period,” Ziesch said. “But there’s still thousands of wells left to drill.”
Energy companies have the luxury of being more selective, but the secondary jobs that support the boom, like construction, will continue to grow, Ziesch said.
“We are seeing a lot more solid, long term, head of household-type jobs being formed in our area as a result of the uptick in the economy across the board,” Baker said.