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When it comes to Bismarck-Mandan's economy, Brian Ritter is an optimistic guy.

“It’s that stability, that diversity, it’s the opportunity that’s available here in Bismarck-Mandan for employers and employees,” the president of the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association said.

Released Wednesday, Job Service North Dakota’s latest regional reports for job openings in central North Dakota and the Bakken region indicate their highest numbers since 2015-16. Specific to Burleigh and Morton counties, economic diversity appears to be the source of the area's strength, Ritter said.

He pointed to a core four of government, education, healthcare and energy generation all gathered locally, from the Capitol to the state’s largest school district to Sanford Health and CHI St. Alexius.

“The strength of our economy is its diversity,” Ritter said.

Phil Davis, customer service area manager for the Bismarck Job Service office, said government, health care and transportation jobs remain strong. He also said he expects the increase in job openings to continue throughout spring into summer with part-time and seasonal work soon to provide students with jobs.

“The numbers reflect growth,” Davis said, from the cities themselves to continual hiring in retail, new restaurants and hotels.

The construction season and spring planting aren't yet in full swing “just because of this late winter that won’t leave us alone,” Davis said.

Meanwhile in March, job openings in Divide, McKenzie and Williams counties cracked their highest since July 2015, according to Job Service North Dakota. Cindy Sanford, of the Williston Job Service North Dakota office, said the oilfield needs more people, preferably with experience and driving records free of moving violations.

Hydraulic fracturing, pipelines, truck driving, drone operators — these and more all need bodies, according to Sanford, who said the three northwestern counties also have "a huge, huge need" for health care professionals and about 40 teachers.

“Just in (Divide, McKenzie and Williams counties) alone, they have 500 kindergarteners registered for this year,” Sanford said, also noting the youth of the area with two-thirds of Williams County residents younger than age 44.

Other demographics have also caught her eye, from ethnic diversity out west to the ratio of residents born in-state versus out-of-state and outside of the United States: 55 percent, 42 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

“The demographics are continuing to change with a nice melting pot, which makes some changes with hiring,” Sanford said.

Bakken area job openings have been steadily increasing since early fall, said Sanford, who expects the trend to continue as construction projects move forward, along with more active drilling rigs and, as the weather warms, lifting road restrictions in the oilfield, generally in mid-May.

“Once those are lifted, send your friends, your neighbors, your in-laws and your ex-laws because we’re going to need everybody that we can for working,” Sanford said.

Those seeking work will have opportunities at job fairs this month in Bismarck, Williston and Watford City. Davis said about 60 employers will be at the multi-industry job fair Tuesday at Bismarck’s Ramkota. Sanford said her office will have back-to-back events in Williston and Watford City, set for April 25-26.

“It’s just a real strong economy continuing here in Bismarck-Mandan as well as in North Dakota,” Davis said.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or


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