Tribune: Idahoans Head to Dakota Oil Fields For Better Wages, Miserable Living Conditions

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The price of oil has fallen precipitously in the past few months and the U.S. Labor Department reported on Feb. 6 that the biggest drop in jobs during the month of January was in the oil and gas industry. But that hasn't stopped the flow of men and women from pulling up stakes in the Gem State and heading to the oil fields of North Dakota.

North Dakota's oil and gas industry began taking off in 2007 and it is estimated that there were more than 440,000 jobs in the industry in 2014, primarily in the west and northwest portion of that state.

This morning's Lewiston Tribune chronicles the journey of a number of Idaho residents who have sold their homes or left behind family members to work 800 miles away in North Dakota's oil fields.

"The money is good and it is helping us to get the dreams, the goals we have in a shorter period of time," Laurie Counts told the Tribune, adding that she, her husband and even their son found high-paying jobs. 

Not everyone's journey has been a dream. The Tribune reports that a number of workers have had to "tolerate primitive conditions and hostile co-workers" with trash-talk and fist-fights not uncommon for new hires. The modern-day oil boom has transformed the formerly sleepy area now known as the Bakken oil fields, bringing with it economic exploitation, prostitution, even murder

While Laurie Counts has recently returned to Idaho, her husband and son are renting a house that they share with three other people, paying $3,000 a month, but the furnace needs fixing and the roof leaks. Before moving into the rental, the Countses lived in a Walmart parking lot, with 600 other people.

"You'd think it's easy, but it's not," Jesse Counts told the Tribune.