North Dakota Resumes Record-Setting Oil Output In February, Quietly Becomes 'Economic Hot Spot'

Includes: DBO, OIL, USO
by: Mark J. Perry

New monthly oil production data released today by North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources show that the Peace Garden State resumed its record-setting oil production in February, following several weather-related declines in oil output in both November and January. For the seventh month in a row, the state produced more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), and the 779,032 barrels of daily North Dakota oil in February set a new all-time monthly record (see chart above). Total North Dakota oil production in February exceeded 20 million barrels for the eighth straight month. Here are some other highlights of North Dakota’s record-setting oil output in February:

1) The state’s oil production increased 39.3% in February above a year earlier, and followed annual increases of 34.8% in January and 43.7% in December. Amazingly, it has taken only 20 months for daily oil production in North Dakota to more than double from 385,800 bpd in June of 2011 to more than 779,000 bpd in February.

2) The Bakken region in western North Dakota produced more than 700,000 bpd in February for only the second time, and established a new all-time monthly output record of 715,419 bpd, which brought the Bakken region’s share of the state’s monthly oil production to a new high of 91.8%. In contrast, the Bakken region produced less than 9% of the state’s oil output at the beginning of 2007, before hydraulic fracturing revolutionized domestic oil production in the shale-rich states of North Dakota and Texas.

As a result of the state’s oil boom, North Dakota continues to lead the nation with the lowest state unemployment rate at 3.3% in February, and more than four percentage points below the national average of 7.7% for that month. There were eleven North Dakota counties with jobless rates at or below 3.0% in February, and Williams County, which is at the center of the Bakken oil boom, continues to boast the lowest county jobless rate in the country at just 0.9%. The exponential growth in North Dakota oil production has fueled exponential growth in the state’s oil and gas jobs, which have more than tripled over the last three years. Overall employment throughout the entire state increased by 5.0% through February from a year earlier, more than three times the tepid 1.5% pace of job growth nationally over that period.

Bottom Line: February was another record-setting month for oil production in North Dakota, and the energy-related boom there continues to make it one of the most economically successful states in America – with record levels of employment and income growth, the lowest state jobless rate in the country, a state budget surplus of $3.8 billion, the lowest home foreclosure rate in the country, strong housing and construction markets, thousands of landowners who have become millionaires from oil royalties and jobless rates in 11 of the state’s counties at or below 3.0% in February. North Dakota’s economic success, job creation, and energy-based prosperity is being driven by the development of the state’s vast energy resources, especially the ocean of shale oil in the state’s Bakken region, which supplied 92% of the state’s oil in February. It’s an economic model that could easily spread energy prosperity elsewhere if more domestic and offshore energy resources were opened up to greater exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas.

Related: See Time Magazine’s photo essay ”North Dakota, A Portrait of an Oil Boom,” and this Motley Fool article about how North Dakota, “one of the coldest, flattest, least populated states in the country, become an economic hot spot.”