Oil and Gas Continue to Fuel Population and Housing Growth in North Dakota

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Written by: Rodger Johnson

For much of the last century, population totals declined in some areas of the northern Great Plains as people were drawn to opportunities in other parts of the country. In particular, faster growing areas in the southern and western states, such as Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, experienced substantial population growth.

Recently, the trend in parts of the northern Great Plains has reversed as the oil and gas extraction industry expanded in areas underlain by the Bakken shale formation, a major petroleum preserve in the northern United States and southern Canada. North Dakota’s population previously peaked in 1930 at 680,845, and only surpassed that level in 2011. The state’s 2013 population estimate now exceeds 723,000.

The city and town level estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau highlight continued population and housing growth among oil and gas rich communities in western North Dakota, a trend already seen in state, county and metro area estimates released earlier this year. In fact, Census Bureau Director John Thompson recently visited North Dakota to witness this spectacular growth first hand and meet with officials and people throughout North Dakota  to see how to best measure it, both in our population estimates and as we prepare for the 2020 Census. Read his blog about his trip here.

Several medium-sized cities in western North Dakota, with between 10,000 and 50,000 people, saw rapid population growth again this year. Williston was the fastest growing city of its size in the country, with an increase of 13.9 percent between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013. This increase bumped the city’s population over 20,000 for the first time in its history. Director Thompson recently toured Williston and other areas of North Dakota to see the growth in the state first-hand.

Dickinson, N.D., another city with one of the fastest-growing populations in the nation (5.5 percent) is in the same part of North Dakota. Dickinson ranked as the third-fastest-growing city in the state during the period, also passing the 20,000 mark this year for the first time.

Several counties in western North Dakota showed corresponding growth in housing units.

Among counties with 5,000 or more units, Williams was the fastest growing in the country, with a 15.6 percent increase in housing units between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013. Stark and Ward counties also experienced rapid increases in the number of new housing units (13.5 and 5.1 percent, respectively).

If you would like to further explore these figures released today or to examine other population trends in the United States, please go to http://www.census.gov/popest/.  You also may wish to contact the North Dakota Census Office for their perspectives on the growth occurring within the state. They are a member of the Federal-State Cooperative for Population Estimates and can be reached at (701) 328-5300 or on their website at www.commerce.nd.gov/census/.

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