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North Dakota State Roundup

Published September 1, 2007  | September 2007 issue

With high oil prices, North Dakota oil producers are pushing to increase production, but are having a hard time finding enough workers to manage the spigots and deliver the black gold to market.

A July study by industry interests, the governor's office, several state agencies and Williston State College (located in the heart of the state's oil-producing region) concluded that the state will need upward of 1,800 workers by 2010 to fill new openings. Including retirements and employee turnover (the latter of which is reportedly quite high with some firms), about 3,300 new hires would be needed annually for the next four years to meet projected employment needs.

The state has seen the number of oil rigs in operation spurt from 16 in 2005 to 41 this year. But companies are struggling to attract qualified labor, despite offering wages ranging from $15 to $26 an hour for laborers and roughnecks, $16 to $22 for truck drivers and up to $31 an hour for equipment operators—all considerably above the state's average wage of about $15 an hour, according to federal statistics.

Ronald A. Wirtz