Currently North Dakota has the third lowest unemployment rate in the country, at 2.6 percent. At one point, some estimates were showing an unemployment rate closer to 2 percent. At first glance, these look like promising statistics.
However, the reason that the unemployment rate is so low is due to the vast influx of jobs created by oil rigs. Since 2012, North Dakota has been prospering financially, but in recent years, there has seen a steady decline. Williston, ND boomed from 12,000 people to 40,000 people, but has now dwindled down to about 20,000.
People from all around the country rushed in to get a piece of the wealth coming from jobs at oil rigs, some paying between $80,000- $100,00 a year. While the oil business is booming, so is everything else- restaurants, businesses, hotels/motels, etc. On the outside, it looks and sounds wonderful.
What about the people that were already there? Once-booming areas will now slowly become ghost towns. Can they go back to the life they once had? Many jobs in the state were mainly agricultural, with North Dakota producing over three-quarters of our flaxseed and canola, as well as almost half of our pinto beans and sunflower oil.
Now it is less profitable to be a farmer in a historically agricultural state. The average profit of all crops for farms in North Dakota was $28,600 in 2015, compared with $76,404 in 2014 and $133,466 in 2013. The oil boom occured in 2012.
Not only that, but their government does not protect them from corporations when there is a toxic spill that destroys their land and livelihood. What will farmers do?
We can assume that they will be bought out and will be forced to move from the farms that families have lived on for generations. This is what we see in most cases. Settlements for farmland that has been destroyed by pollution, and has rarely been in the favor of the farmer. You cannot grow a crop on land that has been polluted by salt, oil or petroleum for years, sometimes decades. Even when the soil has been removed, the groundwater may remain contaminated.
A decision has to be made- not just in North Dakota, but throughout the entire country- about our oil dependence issue. We cannot keep putting stake in unsustainable resources. There is really no logic behind it, save for it being easier and less expensive in the moment. What will happen when we run out of oil and the land cannot be farmed anymore?