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Associated Press, Published June 28 2012

Census: Oil Patch growth may be greater than estimates

MINOT, N.D. — New census figures estimate that North Dakota's fastest-growing cities are in the western oil patch, and officials believe the growth there might be even greater than the numbers indicate.

The U.S. Census Bureau data show that Watford City and Williston grew about 9 percent last year, the highest growth in the state. Growth in Fargo and Bismarck was less than 2 percent, while Grand Forks saw a slight decline. Minot grew by about 3 percent, giving it a July 2011 population of just under 43,000.

“It's very difficult now to try to figure out how many people we actually have,” Mayor Curt Zimbelman told the Minot Daily News (http://bit.ly/KFq6hA ). "Indications are we have quite a few more than that."

People around the country are streaming into western North Dakota because of the oil boom. Rod Backman, chairman of the North Dakota Census Committee in the state Department of Commerce, said the census estimates for the oil patch are too low.

“We have probably 24,000 people living in crew camps. Most of those people, we know, were not counted,” he said.

It also is difficult to measure migration in rapidly growing areas, Backman said. Tax returns are the best measuring tool, but those figures run two years behind, he said.

The Census Bureau estimates North Dakota's 2011 population at 683,932, but Backman said it certainly is higher today.

“I think we are pretty easily over 700,000,” he said.


Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com

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