School bus driver Barb Russell heard there was good money to be made here in the oil fields of North Dakota, so last month she packed a bag, locked her Farmington, Minn., home, and headed west. She tripled her income.The 60-year-old grandmother rose every morning at 3 a.m. in September to drive a bus full of Halliburton workers to drilling rigs in a place where trucks roar non-stop and everybody who wants a job has one. ...... New drilling technology has freed up vast reserves of oil in the Williston Basin of western North Dakota, fueling an economic bonanza that has become a flat-out gold rush. As the rest of the country desperately tries to skirt a double-dip recession, North Dakota boasts a $1 billion budget surplus and the nation’s lowest unemployment rate. Recruits from Minnesota, Texas and both coasts keep arriving, reversing a long population decline. Schools are rushing to hire more teachers. Towns are adding more cops.
Safe to say that the shale gas in the Marcellus hasn't fueled a similar migration boom. That's a bit of a mystery. Still, things might play out differently in Eastern Ohio. (See this story about Steubenville.)
Don't expect man-camps to pop up in feral Youngstown. Also consider the low unemployment in North Dakota that preceded the rush. The labor market has been tight there for the better part of two decades. School bus drivers won't be moving in from the next state over.
The energy industry talent migration to North Dakota isn't extraordinary and likely temporary. Hence the man-camps or even the booked motels in Williamsport, PA. The more opportunistic migration comes from a neighboring state. Proximity matters. Is someone in struggling Orlando, FL going to roll the dice in Williston, ND? I doubt it, at least not yet.
Beware of the hype that the oil and gas industry is pitching. The impact on unemployment will be subtle. Better for Ohio to figure out how to cash in on revenue from the drilling.