Guess which state’s economy grew at a significantly faster pace than the nation’s measly 2.9 percent? According to a report from the Department of Commerce, it’s North Dakota, whose economy expanded a robust 7.1 percent in 2010.The key driver behind both North Dakota’s success is drilling for oil. Historically, North Dakota’s mining sector — which includes oil — was quite small compared to its overall economy. That has undergone change in recent years due to new technology that makes it possible to tap billions of barrels of oil in a remote area of North Dakota known as Bakken. American oil demand was relatively flat last year — but that made no difference in North Dakota. Mining surged 59 percent, primarily because businesses were working to build the infrastructure to support this young industry in the Bakken region. “North Dakota has a lot of untapped shale oil, and developing that field may have attracted a lot of investment and a lot of employment into the state,” said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.
By 2015, the new fields could yield as much as two million barrels of oil a day — more than the entire Gulf of Mexico produces now. This new drilling is expected to raise American production by a minimum of 20 percent over the next five years. Within 10 years, it could reduce oil imports by more than half. “That’s a significant contribution to energy security,” said Ed Morse, head of commodities research at Credit Suisse.
Among the other states, one of the prevailing themes impacting growth is the ongoing housing slump – which was most evident in Nevada and Arizona. Several states — including Indiana, Massachusetts and Oregon — saw a manufacturing comeback for autos, high-tech equipment and machinery.
The states seeing the greatest growth in 2010 after North Dakota include New York at 5.1 percent; Indiana at 4.6 percent; Massachusetts at 4.2 percent; and West Virginia at 4.0 percent.
Wyoming was the loser with its $34 million GDP falling 0.3 percent in 2010. It’s because the majority of Wyoming’s coal is used to generate electricity — and when demand for energy declined. last year, it was a setback for Wyoming’s mining industry. With the energy sector rebounding and coal prices soaring, Wyoming is likely to fare better in 2011. Wyoming performed very differently from North Dakota in 2010. Mining is a well established segment of the economy, accounting for approximately one third of the entire state’s GDP. When energy demand fell and oil prices barely picked up in 2010, Wyoming’s GDP was badly hurt. “When the economy is just flat or just limping along, you can expect a state like Wyoming to really take it hard,” Popovich said.
After Wyoming, the slowest growing states are Nevada at -0.2 percent; Arizona at 0.7 percent; Oklahoma at 0.7 percent; and Montana at 1.1 percent. States like Delaware, which rely heavily on manufacturing of soft goods such as plastic, struggled due to weak consumer demand and competition from producers overseas.
“It’s only been fleshed out over the last 12 months just how consequential this can be,” said Mark Papa, chief executive of EOG Resources, the first company to use horizontal drilling to tap shale oil. “And there will be several additional plays that will come about in the next 12 to 18 months. We’re not done yet.”