Hefty wages attract labor — as well as spending

Hefty wages attract labor — as well as spending

Aug 17

Forum Communications

WILLISTON, N.D. – The current oil boom has catapulted Williston to the top in average wages paid in North Dakota, above Fargo-West Fargo, Bismarck and Wahpeton.

Workers make $49,500 on average here, to Fargo’s $38,000. In oil, the fastestgrowing employment sector, wages average more than $80,000 a year.

Just five years ago, the city ranked fifth, with an average wage of about $29,000.

Job Service reported in July that 6,620 people from other states found jobs in North Dakota in 2009, more than 80 percent more than the 3,631 out-of-staters who found work here in 2008.

In June, North Dakota’s unemployment rate of 3.3 percent was lowest in the nation.

Last spring, when oil prices tumbled, the Williston area saw hiring grind to a near halt, and layoffs rippled through the oilfield – a reminder of the industry’s fickleness.

But by September, things picked up with a vengeance, with no signs of a slowdown in the hiring spree.

In May, the last month for which Job Service has compiled numbers, there were 1,100 job openings in Williston, 655 of them in the oil industry.

The Williston area Job Service office fields more than 70 phone calls a day from employers and job seekers, said Tanya Vachal, the office manager. At a job fair for truck drivers hosted by Job Service in March, applicants showed from 17 states.

“We get calls from all over the United States,” Vachal said. “We even get calls from people working in the oil industry in other countries. They want to come back to the U.S. and work here.”

And spend: Williston registered a sharp increase in taxable sales and purchases in the first quarter of 2010, jumping past Minot and Grand Forks to rank third in the state.

According to the state Tax Department, Williston’s total taxable sales and purchases for the first quarter grew more than 27 percent over the previous year, from $169.7 million to $215.9 million.