Skip to comments.Desperately seeking workers in the oil patch (North Dakota has no workers)
Posted on 06/25/2012 1:03:38 PM PDT by Titus-Maximus
The Quick Take: Rapid oil and gas development in the oil patch of western North Dakota and northeastern Montana has created huge demand for workersnot just in the oilfields, but also in a range of non-oil industries. But so far, the supply of laborfrom within and outside the regionhas responded slowly to demand. In recent years, job openings have soared and unemployment has dropped to very low levelsbelow 3 percent in a number of counties.
The Bakken oil play is drawing job seekers from other Ninth District states and the rest of the country, but theyre not coming in sufficient numbers to keep up with continued job growth. There are several obstacles to the flow of labor into the oil patch, among them low unemployment in eastern North Dakota, the areas frigid winters andmost importanta scarcity of housing.
The region faces an awkward period of adjustment, but labor conditions are likely to loosen within a few years as rising wages and improved living conditions for migrants increase the workforce.
Rick Tofte doesnt try to hire workers for his Williston, N.D., construction business anymore. Theyre difficult to find, and even harder to keepstarting wages at oilfield service firms in the area far exceed what he can pay for the services of carpenters, roofers and electricians. The 30-year-old firm has a full slate of building projects, including upscale housing and facilities for expanding oilfield companies. Yet Tofte Brothers Construction employs only six people; as the oil boom has taken hold in the region, Tofte and his brother Terry have increasingly relied on subcontractors to do most of their work
We have changed our structure in how we [operate], Rick Tofte said. We used to do it all ourselves; now we sub[contract] out 75 percent of it, just because we cant find the employees.
The unemployment rate is 1% in North Dakota and 8.2% in the rest of the nation.
Here's something for the government to do.... Maybe the government could figure this out, instead of creating socialistic giveaways, they could make it easier for the unemployed to come to the oil patch and work. Transport, housing, etc.
Might as well move to Antarctica.
Hubby is up there grading pads for drilling rigs and making tons more money every day than he made when we lived in California. Plus he gets to use the same heavy equipment we would have had to replace back in California (air regulations) and no one cares. He’s making around $1800 a day before expenses and can’t believe that he has no competition.
Tying to talk my 22 year old nephew into going out there. He’s got his welding certification and he could learn everything he would ever need to know there.
The free market is working; the transition just takes time. What they didn't mention is that rents and housing costs have skyrocketed ($2,000.00+/mo for a two bedroom apartment), and the hardest part is finding a place to stay if you're just coming into town.
North Dakota is actually pretty nice in the summer time and this last winter was really mild.
While ND surely can’t be living in the Fred Flintstone age, and has heard of the computer, it’s also true that looking for an IT presence on, say, Dice.com turns up virtually nothing there. Surely it can’t be ALL roughnecks can it?
Living there can be kind of rough now. The demand has sucked housing availability dry. Folks are living in trailers in Wal-Mart parking lots.
Still, ND could stand to nationally advertise more... imho. You should get a bonus for bringing your own trailer, too.
My next-driveway neighbor is out there now, driving a water truck. The money is apparently great, and he says it’s the easiest work he’s ever had (he was a logger and a home builder before this, so that’s not as extravagant a statement as it might sound). He only gets home to his family once a month, so there’s a downside.
The thing that puzzles me about ND isn't that my sister went there. What puzzles me is why more people aren't going there. If you are unemployed, is it better to get a small weekly unemployment check in Pennsylvania or wherever, or get a $1,500 weekly check in ND, where you can also build up your skills?
Tempting, though today. My thermometer here in central Texas says 104......
They aren’t advertising much, and living conditions are pretty darn spartan right now. Still, other booms like the California gold rush didn’t seem to have much problem creating housing. Boom towns went up seemingly overnight. Some scouts in the actual area would be helpful.
I learned all about Williston ND and Bakken a couple years ago when my car broke down.
Really good people in the area...but things are expensive up there now because of ol’ supply and demand....not much supply lots of demand
The area is booming because of oil. My tow truck driver told me it is so hard for any business to keep an employee...because they will get an offer quickly that pays more
I like the area as it is more like the Rockies than the Midwest. The biggest drawback in the area is lack of housing and accomodations....they have to find some way to handle that
Always good to hear a part of the USA doing well, even if it is not my area
A lot of Americans, brainwashed by 50 years of liberal media, have lost one of the qualities that made America great: ambition.
If only South Texas and North Dakota could figure out a productive 6 months /6 months work schedule...
Once upon a time, it was possible to colonize an area with just a small camper pulled behind a medium-duty vehicle, large sedan or pickup truck, where there was some sort of hook-up for utilities and community amenities present. Whole temporary cities could be set up this way, virtually overnight, until more permanent facilities could be built out. The small camper itself became a valuable asset, in that it could be sold to the next prospective colonizer, who arrived with little more than the clothes on his back, basic tools, and a small stake, much like prospectors in the early days of mining strikes.
It is uncomfortable and a lot like a frontier town, but that was how America was once able to expand and grow.
Aren’t there a bunch of FEMA trailers sitting somewhere in a huge lot? Seems like they never can get them in place for any kind of natural disaster, how about utilizing them for a “bootstrap” boost to the economy? Put an unused asset to work, for a basic clearance price, and let the people mobilize, like the huge dispersal of former military goods after WW II, where so much military surplus went to create the new postwar industrial base.
Did a job at the Mandan N.D. refinery in 1991 during winter time.
I have been shivering ever since.
IIRC the FedGov decided the pressboard inside was emitting too much of formaldehyde.
They never heard of opening the windows, apparently.
Trying to keep a trailer built for the Gulf Coast to not Freeze the Pipes during a North Dakota winter would be a tough job.
The FEMA trailer I bought has uninsulated tanks and piping hanging exposed beneath the trailer.
I wouldn’t move to North Freaking Dakota for a million a year.”
hmmmmm....I’d consider it.
easy...summers in Texas, winters in ND....
Big difference. Last I heard, working in Antarctica doesn’t pay squat. The lowest pay I ever heard of.
Yeah, you and everyone on the government dole. Why pick up and move anywherelet alone North Freaking Dakota!for a few years to get a freaking JOB and EARN a freaking living when the government will pay the jobless to stay home and do nothing?
That’s why God made Styrofoam and Great Stuff, just to solve that short-term problem. It doesn’t have to be pretty, or permanent, you just have to get through the winter, and do it all over again before next winter.
We had a visitor in our office a few weeks ago from Minot. She said McDonald’s is paying $25/hour for counter workers.
I’ve been around the oilfield businesses all of my life and I can tell you that finding anyone who can pass the drug “piss test” or who has a clean criminal record is almost impossible to find.
The other problem is that our new generation does not want to perform manual labor.............PERIOD!
It is going to take more than insulation, it will take a heat source in that space.
Frost depth is typically 4 feet or more.
A lot of the unemployed people will not go there for a job because it can be dirty and hard work. Most people want cushy high paying jobs.
I know about deep frost, I lived in Wisconsin for some thirty years. A closed space needs only a 100-watt incandescent bulb to keep the pipes thawed, and there is something called a heat tape that does a most excellent job of keeping a length of pipe thawed in those few critical hours in the coldest of arctic blasts when there is nothing between you and the North Pole except a barbed wire fence. Electric “milk house” heaters are also pretty effective in still air. Heat rises in a closed space, cold does not. The secret is to prevent any heat loss by air exchange.
No housing. Workers are living dormitory style with sometimes 6 to 8 men per bedroom. Living out of your truck won’t cut it when it is cold.
No women. Maybe 1 single woman for 100 men, and she ain’t pretty.
Discuss amongst yourselves.
The same dirty and hard work is required for oil work in Texas Eagle Ford and Permian Basin. Both are booming with work.
While labor rates are up and short on people, they are nothing like North Dakota is seeing.
I still say the cold. We have far more drilling of the same type going on in Texas without the extreme conditions in North Dakota.
The Oil Boom has turned Fort MacMurray, Alberta, Canada into a boom town of over 60,000 within just a few years, and it’s around 100 miles from the Arctic Circle.
North Dakota is a summer resort by comparison.
I'm sure there are many of them looking at the current oil boom as something which will eventually pass and, in the meantime, would like to drag it on as long as possible to employ their kids and grandkids rather than outsiders.
Sure, cold is a factor.
But would cold keep you from feeding your family, if you had few other options?
Laziness is a factor too, as Koblenz and newgeezer point out. Laziness will keep some men (and women) from feeding their families.
But you also have to consider the Bakken’s geographic isolation and the region’s ruralness. Williston, in the heart of the boom, had a population of what, about 12,000 prior to this boom, and was the fifth largest city in the state?
Billings, Montana, 300 miles to the west, has just over 100,000 people; Fargo, 400 to the east, is a bit larger, and beyond that you have to go to Minneapolis or Spokane to top 200,000.
The North Dakota countryside has emptied out over the years as the farms got bigger and the young hit the road. South Dakota is the same, as are the Canadian provinces to the north.
There just weren’t many people around when the boom hit, and there isn’t any housing for the ones who want to come now.
Yet the Alaska gold rush brought its share of boom towns, in a place harsher than ND. Is something happening there to dampen that down? Capitalism eventually wins out if not hobbled sufficiently badly.
Well really all they need to do is provide the land and say welcome Southrons, just bring your double wide trailers with.
There have been times the temperature here in ND has been higher than in TX - in the middle of winter! So there!
Why people wont go to North Dakota
Its cold there
No ‘hood and ‘homies’ to hang out with
Expect you to work....
Having the housing for you is critical. You can spend a lot of money to get something to live in and they want big deposits up front.
The wages sound good but people need to factor in that a POS one bedroom may cost them 1500 a month and a lot of money for heat in the winter.
Me to. I am already in MN so it’s not that much of a change.
Just drove through ND last week.
TONS of oil company trucks.
Had to spend the night (kids/wife tired) hotel rooms where north of 100 bucks a night.
I still have my class B CDL. I know I could drive a truck.
As someone else pointed out. Not much tech work (what I do now) up there.
Brother, there is a good many Southrons already there, and double-wides too, and all of ‘em plenty welcome.
But you have to have hook-ups, and some water and power, and some kind of roads or at least trails in and out, you know?
They are hustling in the Bakken to build the man-camps and the proper facilities for trailers and such. But this activity came on so strong and fast...I just drove from Idaho to the Bakken and back and you can see semi-trailers hauling pipe, other trucks hauling campers and trailers and heavy equipment, pickups (with oil patch bumperstickers) hauling young roughnecks and their gear (and sometimes, not often, their gals), and every other manner of drilling necessities and accessories mile after mile after mile.
They’re gettin’ ‘er done, and purty fast too...you keep sendin’ them lads a’ yourn north, hey?
Thanks for that story. No doubt “working girls” are going to be drawn in to separate those fat paychecks from some of the workers.
Most RVs don’t have an option for R38 insulated walls or floors, otherwise they’d probably have a few more takers.
I lived on the East side of the state and one January it didn’t get above 0 degrees during the day for the whole month. When it started to get to about -5 degrees we got conditioned to think that is was actually quite warm out.
Seems like a good place for a young man without obligations. Go up there, stay a year, work lots of overtime, live frugally, leave with a nice nest-egg to start your own construction business or whatever.
Also would be a good place to go if you are a young woman looking for a husband. Competition would be slim.
The Permian Basin (west Texas) has the same employment situation as N. Dakota. But not as cold in the winter but a bunch hotter in the summer. V
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