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kevin iverson

Kevin Iverson, manager of the North Dakota Census Office, gave a presentation on population growth in 2015.

In 2012, the North Dakota Census office projected the state to grow to 842,000 residents in 2025. Despite the drop in oil prices, the office maintains high projections.

"We're not going to see a dramatic change in the demand for labor," Census office manager Kevin Iverson told attendees of the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency Statewide Housing Conference Wednesday.

Iverson said he expects the state's population to reach 800,000 within the next five years. That's about 60,500 more people than live here now and about 164,000 more than what the office expected when "out-migration" was a buzzword in 2000.

"Even with the changing landscape, we don't see this as an (oil) bust but a bump in the road," said Jolene Kline, NDHFA executive director, adding that, in order to meet affordable housing needs, developers need to know what areas are drawing increased population.

From 2010 to 2014, Iverson said the state is expected to gain citizenship equivalent to the population of Bismarck. Most are younger, between the ages of 20 to 34. He projected that, in the next two to three years, Ward County will probably have a greater population than Grand Forks County and Minot will likely be classified as a metropolitan statistical area. 

North Dakota’s population peaked around the time of the Great Depression and had not recovered until 2012, when there were more than 700,000 people in the state for the first time. The state went from 47 out of 53 counties seeing decreases in population in the '90s to 13 out of 53 counties seeing decreases between 2010 and 2013.

Most of today's population losses are occurring on the outskirts of Grand Forks and in the counties surrounding Burleigh County, according to Iverson. Those leaving the state tend to be older than 65. From 2010 to 2013, North Dakota lost 1,500 retirement-age citizens, he said.

The majority of growth has come from migration into the state but births are a factor, too, he reported. 

Men make up 60 percent of those coming to the state but an ample number of women moving here has caused birth rates to rise. Natural population increases in the west have surpassed that of the east, and there was a larger growth in residents ages 0 to 19 in Williston than there was in Fargo from 2010 to 2013.

Iverson said the birth rate is increasing by about 500 births per year statewide.

"We're seeing fairly phenomenal amounts of children," said Iverson, expressing confidence that growth will continue because there are still jobs to fill.

Citing North Dakota Job Service reports, Iverson said there are two resumes submitted for every 10 jobs in Williams County. In Williston, there are 116 jobs for every 100 residents, many of whom are not working-age adults, he said.

To keep people coming, North Dakota must have competitive housing prices, according to Iverson, pointing out that, as the housing market begins to recover nationwide, prices are spiking here.

"There has to be enough of a dividend in North Dakota to pay for them to move," he said.

(Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com.)

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Business Reporter