NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

North Dakota Is Doing It Right

March 16, 2011

North Dakota is booming, says Joel Kotkin, executive editor of

  • Unemployment is 3.8 percent, and according to a Gallup survey last month, North Dakota has the best job market in the country.
  • The state's population is up nearly 5 percent since 2000.

The biggest impetus for the good times lies with energy development.

  • Around 650 wells were drilled last year in North Dakota, and the state Department of Mineral Resources envisions another 5,500 new wells over the next two decades.
  • Between 2005 and 2009, oil industry revenues have tripled to $12.7 billion from $4.2 billion, creating more than 13,000 jobs.
  • The state also enjoys prodigious coal supplies and has even moved heavily into wind-generated electricity, now ranking ninth in the country.

While the overall numbers are still small compared to those of bigger states, North Dakota now outperforms the nation in everything from the percentage of college graduates under the age of 45 to per-capita numbers of engineering and science graduates.  Median household income in 2009 was $49,450, up from $42,235 in 2000.  That 17 percent increase over the last decade was three times the rate of Massachusetts and more than 10 times that of California.

What accounts for the state's success?  Dakotans didn't bet the farm, so to speak, on solar cells, high-density housing or high-speed rail.  Taxes are moderate and North Dakota is a right-to-work state, which makes it attractive to new employers, especially in manufacturing.  But the state's real key to success is doing the first things first -- such as producing energy, food and specialized manufactured goods for which there is a growing, worldwide market.  This is what creates the employment and wealth that can support environmental protection and higher education.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "Why North Dakota Is Booming," New Geography, March 14, 2011.

For text:


Browse more articles on Government Issues