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Associated Press, Published September 20 2013

Western ND oil boom boosts median income

BISMARCK – North Dakota’s unprecedented oil boom has helped boost the state’s median household income above the national average and positively impacted salaries to its sister state to the south, demographers in the Dakotas say.

Statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau show North Dakota’s median household income rose to $53,585 last year, up from $52,763 in 2011. The state’s median household income has climbed more than 10 percent since 2008, census figures show.

Kevin Iverson, manager of the state’s census office, said the oil boom in the western part of the state helped bump salaries in North Dakota, which only surpassed national average in wages two years ago.

“There’s nothing really surprising about the numbers,” Iverson said of the bureau’s American Community Survey. “There is a lot more people in the state making a lot more money.”

North Dakota is leading the nation in population growth and the number of residents in the state is at an all-time high, at more than 700,000 residents, according to the Census Bureau. North Dakota’s strong economy led by its booming Oil Patch in the western part of the state has attracted thousands of new residents in the past few years.

North Dakota has gone from the nation’s ninth-biggest oil producer in 2006 to the second, behind only Texas. The state has some 22,000 more jobs than takers and the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, at less than 3 percent.

Energy-related jobs also have helped neighboring states where businesses there are catering to North Dakota’s Oil Patch and out-of-state residents are flocking to fill unfilled jobs.

“We’re seeing a huge spillage effect happening throughout the region,” Iverson said. “This is a good thing all the way around because we don’t have the resident workforce to deal with all of this.”

Mike McCurry, South Dakota’s state demographer, said his state’s strong and diversified economy helped it weather a downturn that affected most of the nation beginning five years ago.

The state’s median household income dropped slightly to $48,362 last year compared to $49,435 in 2011. South Dakota’s median household income was $48,192 in 2010.

“We didn’t get hit quite as hard in the recession because we were in a little better shape than some other states and our recovery came quicker,” McCurry said. North Dakota’s economy also helped keep income levels stable, with some residents crossing the border for employment or who work at businesses that provide services to the energy industry, he said.

“I don’t think North Dakota can have an oil boom without affecting its neighbors,” McCurry said.

But the male-dominated energy industry has done nothing to close the wage gap between men and women in either state, demographers said.

Census figures show the median earnings of North Dakota men who worked full-time, year-round climbed to $45,888 last year, from $45,260 in 2011. The median earnings for North Dakota women increased from $33,877 in 2011 to $33,877 last year. In South Dakota, the median earnings for men increased from $40,680 in 2011 to $40,721 last year, while the wages for women increased from $31,643 to $31,792 during that time.

Job Service data show workers in North Dakota’s oil and natural gas industry earned an average salary of $112,462 last year.

Iverson said men make up more than 90 percent of the workforce in the state’s Oil Patch.

“Overwhelmingly, the migration that’s coming into the state is more males than females,” he said.

McCurry said he knows one of a South Dakota woman who makes far less money than her son, a high school dropout who drives a truck in North Dakota’s Oil Patch.

“He mocks his mother for having a master’s degree,” McCurry said.