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Southwest ND: More jobs than people

Area officials like to joke that there are more jobs than people in southwest North Dakota, but there's a possibility that their joke is a fact.

In February there were 1,684 job openings in Region VIII, which is comprised of Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, Slope and Stark counties, according to a report published by Job Service North Dakota. There were 611 active résumés for those same counties last month.

Not all professions require job seekers apply with a résumé, said Mary Urlacher, office manager for the Dickinson branch of Job Service North Dakota.

"If it's CDL drivers -- fill out the application, here's my CDL license and they're good to go," she said. "We may have not as many individuals registering that choose to put a résumé out on the system with just a CDL."

Transportation jobs had 238 openings in February, or 14 percent of all job openings in southwest North Dakota. There were 92 résumés for transportation jobs, which comprised 15 percent of all active resumes last month.

Transportation jobs also led the state in February, at 10.8 percent of the 18,749 jobs listed in North Dakota at 2,033 openings. In 2012, office and administrative support jobs lead the state in February with 1,805 openings.

To North Dakota's 18,000-plus job openings in February there were 13,135 active résumés, 10,477 that came from in state. Those posting résumés from in state were most often searching for office administrative support positions, at 2,490, or 23.7 percent. Out-of-state job seekers posted 2,658 résumés, and 21.4 percent of those, 570, were looking for construction and extraction jobs.

"When somebody registers in our system, you can put in more than one résumé," Urlacher said. So résumés may not be indicative of the exact number of job seekers.

The increase in job openings and their ensuing employment has created more work for other departments in North Dakota.

The Department of Labor, which enforces labor and human rights laws throughout the state, has seen an uptick in wage claims since North Dakota's employment boom started, Commissioner of Labor Tony Weiler said.

"We're just a lot busier," he said. "We were averaging about 28 to 29 wage claims per month. ... This biennium, which is (2011 to 2013), so far we're averaging almost twice that many wage claims per month and in some months it's three times as much."

The increase is spread evenly and is not necessarily all oil related, Weiler said. Because of the uptick his department has gone to the legislature to ask for another full-time position to deal exclusively in wage claims.

"What we're dealing with is people's wages," he said. "It's very important to all of us to feed our kids and to put a roof over our heads."

Even with the abundance of jobs, there is still a housing shortage in the Oil Patch.

"We still preach to individuals that (they need to) get online, get registered, do a lot of your job searching from home before you just jump in the car and come," Urlacher said. "If they can come with a plan and interview with a few companies before they decide to come out here permanently rather than just come out here and say, 'I'm here to find a job,' that's a little bit more proactive planning."

There were 11 new building permits issued in Dickinson in February, according to the most current building permit report. Two of those were for commercial structures, four for single-family dwellings and five for multi-family buildings. Of the five permits issued, 168 units will be created and are valued at more than $19 million combined.

This year will see several large building projects, said Ed Courton, Dickinson community development director. St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Center has submitted its permit for its above-ground structure, as has Menard's.

"When you have one or two projects like that we're going to be well, well ahead of last year," he said.

Dickinson's permit values last year hit $389 million.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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