Increased oil and gas activity boosts jobs in the Bakken

By Patrick C. Miller | February 08, 2017

The rebound in oil and gas activity in the Williston Basin is evident in the numbers and types of jobs industry is seeking.

“It’s definitely busy,” said Cindy Sanford, manager of the Job Service North Dakota Williston office. “We’re seeing a lot of hiring going on. We have four or five job fairs this month, and then we have our huge job fair March 22. We haven’t seen some of the large companies like Haliburton at our job fairs for a long time, but they’re here now and that’s a good thing.”

The combination of higher oil prices and leases coming due have led to increased employment opportunities, not only in oil and gas field jobs, but also in the areas of administration and support, she said.

According to Sanford, jobs in the oil and gas industry receiving the most interest are for hydraulic fracturing crews, roustabouts and truck drivers. Most of the jobs involved the more than 800 well completions in the state, but some are in drilling, she said.

“We’re working with seven companies that are hiring in fracking and they’re hiring consistently,” she said. “A frack crew is anywhere from 45 to 65 people, and most of them are hiring more than one crew.”

Depending on prior experience, Sanford said the companies hiring are also willing to train individuals to work on frack crews.

“These jobs are here for a while is what I was told,” she said. “A company I talked to the other day told me that they were going to continuously hire through October.”

Sanford noted that more housing at lower costs and infrastructure improvements make dealing with an influx of new employees somewhat easier to handle compared to two years ago when the oil and gas industry was booming in the Bakken.

“That makes it a better experience as people are coming in,” she said. “We’re definitely seeing families come—a lot more women and kids. That’s a plus. Another thing we’re seeing is that our median age has dropped to 32.”

However, Sanford notes that there’s still much to be done in an area that’s forecast to more than double its population by 2024.

“The city and the country have done a very nice job with the infrastructure, but there’s still infrastructure that needs to be done as the numbers come up,” she explained.

Data from the Williston Economic Development organization shows that the city had $385.2 million in capital improvements during 2016, will have $267.4 million this year and $140.4 million in 2018. Since 2007, births in the city have risen from 445 to 843 in 2016.

“It’s not going to be stagnant,” Sanford said of the area’s expanding base. Even though the area lost people during the downturn in oil production, she pointed out that industry activity didn’t completely stop and neither did infrastructure development.

Housing stock in Williston has increased from about 6,400 in 2009 to just under 15,000 in 2015. Sanford said one real estate company she spoke with said it had enough housing for three and a half to four months only.

“In 2010, we had great infrastructure for 12,000 people, but now we’re hovering around 30,000,” she said. “We’re going to continue to grow. You can’t grow at that rate and not have some infrastructure problems.”