A Glimmer of Hope in North Dakota

North Dakota touts the lowest unemployment rate of any state in the union. While unemployment is on the rise in over half of the country, Bismark, ND is registering the absolute lowest unemployment in the country at 2.5%. 

As was the case with most of the country, following the economic catastrophe of 2008, North Dakota saw a sharp spike in unemployment, but the boom ushered in by fracking the Bakken formation quickly reversed the trend. Even with sudden population growth, North Dakota’s unemployment rate remains low.

In stark contrast to states with burdensome regulations who coincidentally face staggering budgetary deficits, the state of North Dakota is expecting a budget surplus of $1.6 billion. Surplus is reinvested in the state by way of education and other public programs, making North Dakota an attractive prospect to those in fledgling states.

Detractors of North Dakota’s success claim this is just an energy boom with an inevitable bust looming on the horizon. There was a time when conversations with new Texan acquaintances began with, “are you in oil or cattle?”  The presumption being of course, that to be gainfully employed in the lone star state, you worked in one of the two largest industries. While these industries helped to create a thriving economy, today Texas can boast of a diverse economy that is attracting businesses from states where regulatory overload renders profitability difficult.  With crude oil production still on the rise, there’s no reason North Dakota cannot be a similar job magnet.

Yet, North Dakota provides hope beyond its immediate economic success. Every President since Nixon promised to work towards energy independence. Fracking shale reserves may be the ticket to finally achieving such a lofty goal. The benefits of increased fracking are almost innumerable and would reach into foreign policy, economic output, export, local economies and the list goes on. Increased oil production would drive down the cost of energy, decreasing the cost of goods across the board.

In the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, North Dakota provides a glimpse of what is possible in a business friendly climate, where energy exploration is encouraged. Just imagine if such a success were repeated nationwide.