Walmart Starts Employees at $17.40/Hour in Williston, North Dakota, Where Unemployment is 0.9 Percent

(Photo: Mark J. Perry)A sign at a Walmart in Williston, North Dakota.

In the booming town of Williston, North Dakota, where unemployment is less than 1 percent, Walmart, America's multinational chain of value stores notorious for paying low wages, starts off workers with an impressive hourly wage of $17.40.

According to Mark J. Perry, a full-time professor of economics at the Flint Campus of The University of Michigan, if the company paid less in this special town, which booming economically thanks to the "prolific" Bakken oil fields, Walmart would find it difficult to find workers.

"Walmart pays wages that reflect the economic conditions in a local market based on the supply and demand realities of the local labor market. In other words, Walmart can't really set wages independent of market forces and it's really at the mercy of the market in every local community. If Walmart offered the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour in the Bakken area, it wouldn't be able to staff its stores," wrote Perry in an article for the American Enterprise Institute.

Perry highlighted the case of Walmart wages in Wilmington in a critique of the concept of a national minimum wage, arguing that it is an illogical way in which to determine compensation across the country.

"The fact that Walmart is paying almost two and-a-half times the minimum wage in Williston is evidence that a single, national minimum wage for every city, county, labor market in the country can't possibly make sense," said Perry.

"Even proponents of the minimum wage have to agree that a single national minimum can't be optimal for every labor market in the country. In that case, they would logically have to support thousands of minimum wages tailored to thousands of local communities, or maybe even more logically agree that minimum wages are unworkable," he noted.

(Photo: screen grab)President Barack Obama makes remarks on Thursday, May 15, 2014, at the dedication ceremony of the National September 11 Museum and Memorial in New York City.

On Friday, President Barack Obama is expected to visit North Dakota, but not to highlight the effect of the economic boom, much to the chagrin of some of the state's residents.

"The primary purpose of his visit will be to spend time on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, where he will attend a powwow and meet with tribal leaders to discuss a number of important topics, including jobs, education and self-determination in Indian Country," explained an op-ed in The Bismarck Tribune.

"Many, including the state's congressional delegation, have urged the president to also visit oil country while here. In doing so, he would be able to observe production activity and job growth firsthand in what is now the second largest oil-producing state in the union, one playing a significant role in moving the United States closer to energy independence," it noted.

Jon Murphy, a commenter on Perry's article, went a little deeper with his criticism and how he thinks Obama's visit will go.

"Unfortunately, you'll likely hear nothing about the fossil fuel milestones in America's economic miracle state or $17.20 per hour jobs at the Walmart Williston when President Obama visits here this week," lamented Murphy.

"Instead of visiting the most prosperous part of the most prosperous state in the nation to recognize one of the most powerful engines of the U.S. economy – the Bakken oil fields of western North Dakota – President Obama decided to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, about 250 miles from here in the southern part of the state, where the jobless rate is 86 percent," he continued.

"Go figure. When Obama lectures the Native Americans this Friday about jobs and economic development in their part of North Dakota, perhaps he should mention that there's a labor shortage only a few hundred miles away, with hundreds, if not thousands of immediate openings for high-paying jobs in the oil patch," he ended.

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