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Overall job growth in the U.S. has been stubbornly sluggish over the last few years, and total payroll employment in August of this year was still almost five million jobs, and 3.4%, below the peak level of payroll jobs at the beginning of 2008 (see chart above). Meanwhile, there’s one sector of the economy that is booming like never before, and creating jobs at a record pace – America’s thriving energy industry, especially the recently emerging shale oil and gas business. Just the direct jobs for oil and gas drilling activities have increased by more than 27% since early 2008 to a level in August of this year that was the highest monthly total since late 1987, almost 25 years ago (see chart above).
Over the last year, America’s oil and gas companies have been hiring an average of almost 100 new workers each business day for activities directly related to oil and gas drilling, and then there are the thousands of additional indirect jobs that are being created each month throughout the long supply chain that supports shale energy in industries like railroads, trucking, fracking sand mining and processing, housing, construction, steel tubing, and heavy drilling equipment, and even banking, legal and financial services.
A USA Today article “Want a job? Look to the energy field” profiles the shale-driven jobs bonanza that is booming thanks to the unconventional oil and gas revolution in America. Here’s an excerpt:
Of all the places that America’s new jobs are, the emerging energy business, directly or indirectly, might be responsible for more of them than almost anything else.
Since 2002, the exploration of natural gas deposits embedded in shale, followed by oil drilling that began in earnest late in the decade, has created more than 1 million jobs, says Moody’s Analytics economist Chris Lafakis. That’s out of 2.7 million the whole country created.
Just counting positions directly in the energy industry, the shale boom has accounted for as many as 33,000 new U.S. jobs this year, according to Bright Labs, a San Francisco start-up whose website provides job-hunt data and tips.
More than 3,500 are in metropolitan Houston, Bright says. But the job expansion stretches through cities of all sizes. Oklahoma City’s 400 jobs are near the top of the list, Bright says. Denver, Pittsburgh, and Williston, N.D. — all near newly exploitable oil and gas deposits — are also seeing big changes from shale for shale-related jobs.
The most plentiful jobs — at least, of those that end up being advertised online — seem to be in engineering. Six of the top eight most-filled new jobs in the industry are for some kind of engineer, says Bright senior data scientist Jacob Bollinger.
But the shale job surge is more broadbased than those numbers alone would suggest, thanks to the energy industry’s complicated infrastructure and supply chain, researchers say. While oil and gas deposits are concentrated in a handful of places, more than 30 states saw oil and gas support employment, including suppliers and service companies that work with energy companies, rise at least 50% in the past decade, Moody’s says.
Because new rigs have to be built, and oil and gas have to be moved to market either via newly built pipelines or by truck and rail, new jobs abound at both drilling companies and their suppliers, says Tom Tunstall, research director for the Institute for Economic Development at the University of Texas San Antonio. It has closely studied the development of the Eagle Ford shale field that spans more than a dozen counties in South Texas.
In Pennsylvania, where officials say shale added 18,000 new energy industry jobs between 2008 and last year, another 5,000 jobs were added for freight trucking, and 500 more were created to build roads, according to a state-sponsored study this summer.
One company that’s gotten a big boost is the Union Pacific railroad, which now gets about 2% of its business from shale-based companies, hauling everything from tank cars of oil to sand used in the process of extracting gas and oil from deep underground, CEO John Koraleski says.
Rising U.S. energy production also is creating manufacturing jobs for everything from steel for piping to rail cars. Among the biggest: a $650 million, 350-job plant by French tubing manufacturer Vallourec to make products for shale drilling in Youngstown, Ohio, and a planned natural gas cracking plant outside Pittsburgh that could add 10,000 construction jobs and hundreds of permanent positions at Shell, if it goes forward.
“Every week, I see a billion-dollar investment,” Navigant Consulting energy economist Julie Carey says.
MP: America’s booming energy industry is attracting billions of dollars of new investment and has emerged in recent years as the economy’s single largest job creating sector, with shale-based energy alone being responsible for more than a million new jobs over the last decade, according to the Moody’s report referenced above. Without the powerful economic stimulus from the emerging shale revolution over the last few years, the weak economic growth and sluggish pace of job creation in the U.S. during the sub-par recovery would likely be much, much worse. It’s perhaps ironic that despite what some have called President Obama’s ongoing “war against fossil fuels,” it might actually be the fossil-fuel based stimulus to the economy that is now helping Obama politically by keeping the economy out of another recession.
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