- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota’s oil boom fueled the fastest housing growth in the nation for the third consecutive year, government figures show, even though it is still hard to find a place to live in some towns.

Census Bureau statistics released Thursday show that in the year to July 2013, North Dakota added 10,207 housing units - a growth of 3.1 percent. That far outstripped the national average growth rate of 0.3 percent and was the fastest in the nation.

Williams County in the state’s western oil patch showed more housing development than any other county in the country according to the census data. The number of housing units there grew by 15.6 percent in the year to July 2013, and 40 percent over a three-year period.

Five of the top ten counties in the nation for housing growth were in North Dakota - Williams, Stark, Ward, Morton and Burleigh.

“North Dakota’s strong economy is fueling development across the state that includes a major expansion of new housing for residents of all income levels,” said Gov. Jack Dalrymple in a statement. “We will continue working with private industry to expand our housing opportunities throughout the state, especially in communities experiencing rapid growth.”

North Dakota’s building boom follows the rapid expansion of oil production, which has drawn tens of thousands of workers, lured by high-paying jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

Every day, more people arrive at the Amtrak station in downtown Williston with backpacks slung over their shoulders hoping to find work.

Williston, the seat of Williams County, has been the fastest-growing micropolitan area - with a population of more than 10,000 but less than 50,000 - in the country for several years.

Many oil patch workers live in man camps, which are pre-fabricated structures which can look like military barracks. Others live in sprawling trailer parks, sleep in cars or even tents. Some companies rent blocks of hotel rooms for employees to live in.

Housing developments are constantly popping up in big areas of town that didn’t exist on maps a couple of years ago. But they are still not enough to keep pace with demand and oil money has pushed rents to among the highest in the nation: a simple one bedroom apartment in Williston can easily cost $2,000 a month in rent. Even a spot to park a trailer can cost over $800 per month.

While the oil boom has given state officials plenty of numbers to brag about - such as high economic growth rates, per capita income growth and low unemployment - it has also spawned some negative statistics.

In 2012, North Dakota had the highest worker death rate in the nation with 17.7 fatalities per 100,000 employees, according to AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation.

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