Mercer, McLean and Oliver Counties – known collectively as Coal Country – were among the top 10 counties in North Dakota last year for highest average wages. Oliver Country, home of BNI Coal’s Center Mine and the Young Station, was number three. Mercer County was fifth and McLean County was ninth.
In Mercer County, home of Beulah and Hazen along with three coal mines, three power plants and the Great Plains Synfuels Plant, average annual wages at both the mines and coal conversion facilities are more than $100,000. The wages aren’t released for the mines and plants in the other two counties because of size and to avoid disclosing proprietary data.
Statistics released by the North Dakota Job Service showed that average wages in North Dakota increased 3.9 percent from the preceding year reaching $53,356 statewide in 2018. That’s the second straight year that average wages have increased across the state.
The top 10 counties for highest average wages all came from areas known for energy development. In first and second place were Williams and McKenzie Counties. Other top 10 counties based on wages include Dunn, Mountrail, Slope, Stark and Burke. Job Service North Dakota compiles the list of average wages by counties annually.
“The 2018 data from Job Service shows the strong influence energy production continues to have on North Dakota’s economy,” said Steve Van Dyke, vice president of communications for the Lignite Energy Council. “Between the oil and coal industry’s impact on wages, the state of North Dakota continues to benefit from thousands of high paying jobs.”
Van Dyke noted that North Dakota’s government has been proactive in advocating for policies that support a growing energy economy. The Empower Commission was established to bring all facets of the energy industry together to fashion public policy that benefits all energy sources instead of picking winners and losers.