State's oil wells need more workers

North Dakota State Roundup

Published January 1, 2005  | January 2005 issue

Record high oil prices have the state's drillers racing to pump out as much crude as they can get to market, but they face another challenge first: finding people to pump it.

Some analysts have estimated production could be 20 percent greater if there were more workers available. In early December, a state job listing service had over 100 oil drilling and related job openings posted.

The jobs are typically well paying, starting at around $17 an hour, often with benefits and free room and board. This work is well suited to the seasonally unemployed, such as contractors.

But the work is also physically demanding; oil patches are often in isolated areas, and the work requires heavy exposure to the harsh North Dakota winter. These issues along with the state's low unemployment rate factor into the worker shortage.

But those in the oil industry are optimistic that if they get the word out, labor will come. The North Dakota Petroleum Council, along with the state, began an advertising campaign for the jobs in late November.

Joe Mahon