ND oil production gives big boost to state's population

By Ann Bailey | January 26, 2016

The jobs that drew men and women to the oil fields of western North Dakota has helped boost the state’s population by 84,000 people during the past five years.

North Dakota’s population had risen to 775,000 as of July 2015, according to the North Dakota Department of Commerce census office. The nationwide recession and new technology that gave oil companies the ability to extract oil from shale had a major impact on North Dakota’s population, a news release from the census office said.

Meanwhile, an increase in people moving into, instead of out of the state, and a rise in the number of adults of child-bearing and corresponding increase in the number of births, changed the composition of the state’s population. About three-fourths of the population change between 2010 and 2015 resulted from migration, the census office said.

North Dakota’s population is expected to continue on the upswing throughout the next few decades, assuming that in the earlier years, people continue to move into the state at a higher rate than they move out and then the numbers eventually level off, the census office news release said.

Population projection scenarios and years are:

-       Expected migration: 2020, 824344; 2025, 884,874; 2030, 931,506; 2035, 966,375; and 2040, 991,522.

-       High migration: 2020, 848,563; 2025, 925,164; 2030, 984,147; 2035, 1.02 million; 2040, 1.06 million.

-       Low migration: 2020, 800,124; 2025, 844,583; 2030, 878,865; 2035; 904,990; and 2040, 923,372.

The projections reflect the most likely population change expected in the state, the census said, adding that in the past, long-term projections often have been inaccurate. For example, the 2005 projections estimated that North Dakota would continue to lose population and it would drop to 606,000 by 2030. Given the unexpected rise in population, driven in large part by oil production activity in western North Dakota, that scenario now appears unlikely.

Because fluctuations in oil and agricultural commodity prices likely will continue, it is not possible to predict exactly how population changes will play out or the impact they will have on the overall population of the state or on counties over time, the census office said.

Looking ahead, under the expected population scenario, North Dakota’s population in the western four regions, which include oil counties, are expected to see a bigger population increase than those in the eastern four regions under the expected migration scenario. That scenario assumes that the net migration in North Dakota will increase by about 98,000 residents between 2015 and 2040, reaching 991,522 by 2040.

Under the expected population projections for the western four regions are: 2020, 402,583, 2025, 440,813; 2030, 468,512, 2035, 488,273; and 2040, 502,568.