North Dakota wages down for first time in a decade

BISMARCK -- The average annual wage in North Dakota fell for the first time in a decade and the total annual wage fell for the first time since, at least, 1990.

BISMARCK -- The average annual wage in North Dakota fell for the first time in a decade and the total annual wage fell for the first time since, at least, 1990.

Largely due to the drop in average wages in North Dakota’s oil counties, the total annual wage decreased 2 percent statewide in 2015 to about $22 billion in total wages, according to North Dakota Job Service data.

Williams County still maintained the highest average wages in the state, slipping from $82,813 in 2014 to $77,663. Oil industry wages in the county slipped 2.3 percent from $106,932 on average in 2014 to $104,451 in 2015.

After rising 20.4 percent from 2013 to about $1.6 billion total wages in 2014, oil and gas extraction wages in Williams County dipped 26.4 percent from 2014 to 2015, bottoming out at about $1.2 billion in total annual wages. This decrease was in line with the reported decrease in average annual employment by the industry.

Other large total wage drops took place in Williams County’s wholesale trade and transportation and warehousing. There were larger percentages in wage increases for utility companies and government workers.


Total wages for all industries in the county decreased 18.6 percent. The average annual wage decreased 6.2 percent.

McKenzie County total oil and gas wages were down about 12 percent after several years of large increases. Average annual wages for the industry were down 2 percent.

Transportation and warehousing total wages also were down, by about 17 percent. But total wages in the county were only down 6.7 percent and average annual wages were down 1.7 percent.

Average annual wages also decreased in the oil counties of Dunn, Slope, Mountrail and Stark, as well as in Benson, Billings, Bottineau, Burke, Golden Valley and Renville counties.

In coal country, wages were on the rise.

Oliver County, which had the fifth highest average wages in 2014, jumped to second place in 2015 with average wages of $76,712.

Wages data for mining and utilities was suppressed in Oliver County. According to Job Service, data cannot be displayed if the number of employers in an industry’s published geographic area are less than three, or if one employer comprises 80 percent or more of an industry’s total employment.

Mercer County, home to three coal mines and four power plants and Dakota Gasification Co.’s lignite gasification plant, saw average wages increase from $62,741 in 2014 to $67,113. The county had the highest percentage increase in average annual wages for all industries, up 7 percent.


The mining industry’s average annual wage in Mercer County was $102,368. The average weekly wage for the industry was up 3.6 percent but average annual employment and total wages were down 11 percent and 8 percent respectively.

Burleigh and Morton counties also both saw wage growth, with average annually wage increases of 3.3 percent and 1.9 percent respectively.

The real estate industry had the largest growth in Burleigh County, with total wages up 50 percent and average weekly wages up 40.8 percent. The average annual wage in the county was $49,171.

Manufacturing drove the growth in Morton County. Both total annual wages and average weekly wages were up more than 20 percent in the county from 2014 to 2015. The average annual wage for all industries was $44,557.

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