Mercer County has fallen on tough times.
Hazen and Beulah have recently had layoffs in the energy industry.
The ag industry is also having a tough year.
We traveled to Hazen and spoke with the city mayor about the local economy.
He says, despite word on the street, things are good in coal country.
“I would say 95 percent of the people in our community are linked to either the energy industry or the ag industry,” says Hazen Mayor Jerry Obenauer.
And it’s been a tough year for both. Farmers and ranchers are facing low commodity prices and a trade war, and Basin has had layoffs.
“In the last year, the main hit has been the energy industry,” says Obenauer.
According to Job Service North Dakota, Mercer County has an unemployment rate of 4 percent, well above North Dakota’s 2.4 percent average.
“It’s just that we have had good years and bad,” Obenauer notes. “I don’t even want to say that. We’ve had good years and less than good years. But I think we’re always coming through peaks and valleys.”
They’ve been through this before. And despite a few setbacks, the mayor says both Hazen and Beulah are in a strong economy.
“I see people buying cars, I see people going out for dinner, I see people injecting their money into our economy. Not any less than any other time in our history,” says Obenauer.
We reached out to Marcia Goetz with Job Service and she says that, with the exception of the oil boom, Mercer County is right in line with what it’s been historically.
Another economic indicator is the Housing Market.
In the Beulah-Hazen area, residential units alone, there are about 90 homes on the market.
Century 21 Morrison Realtor Heather Stromme says it’s not as bad as it seems — home sales in the area are up 11 percent from last year.
She says the community just got used to an oil boom which had gone on for so long.
“They’re steady, they’re steady. I think they are stabilizing,” says Stromme. “We’ve been through a lot of changes over the years. Markets adjust. They fluctuate, they go up and down. We are no longer in an oil boom, and I think it’s just kind of a natural shift in the Market.”
And she says, while the housing market has changed, it is still stronger than it was before the oil boom.