Carpe Diem

America’s booming energy industry has emerged as the no. 1 job-creating sector of the U.S. economy

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.

9 thoughts on “America’s booming energy industry has emerged as the no. 1 job-creating sector of the U.S. economy

  1. The Left and the energy industry have been at war for at least 60 years. It was Roy Cullen, H. L. Hunt, and other Texas oil men who funded Joe McCarthy and other ultra-conservative political messengers back in the 1950s. Koch Industries founder Fred Koch was also one of the founders of the John Birch Society (JBS). The Texas oil men and Koch’s JBS saw a Communist conspiracy behind every liberal and left-wing scheme. The Left seemed to see Big Oil behind every conservative or military action.

  2. Note that if the BNSF were still an independent company it would benefit from North Dakota even more, as it has built terminals to ship oil from Willisoton ND south. In a way the coal slow down has helped as it leaves the ability to ship oil out of ND either east or west to the Powder River Lines and then to the market. (The Powder River line is a joint UP BNSF line in eastern Wy). If you look at a railroad map back 110 years ago there was little north south traffic west of the Missouri River, so that traffic has to move east to Mn or with the coal line west to the Powder River area.

  3. I sense the oil boom in the USA has legs…unless oil prices crack.

    Remember, after the 1979 oil price spike, it was 20 years of slow declines in prices.

    I think there is a ceiling now on oil prices, but the question is, what is the floor?

  4. I love this data but could you please put up a chart that shows total private employment in the percentage basis you have and then one without the oil and gas new employment. This would be a killer in that it would probably show that x-O&G the Obama years have shown no private employment growth. It would also show how Obama by standing in the way of every energy initiative (except solar and windmills) has keep people from being employed in America where we can now be taking jobs away from the rest of the world instead of giving them up. Please do this. Please!

  5. The problem is that shale producers are not self financing. That means that the jobs will only last as long as the funding gaps can be filled. I have noted that you have made hundreds of points about minutiae in the shale sector but fail to look at the actual cash flows and balance sheets of the producers.

  6. Hmmm, why would anyone listen to the EPA in the first place?

    From CBS Atlanta: New Wyo. tests show less benzene in fracking zone
    Updated: Sep 26, 2012 7:29 PM CDT

    CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – New groundwater testing in Wyoming shows lower levels of the carcinogen benzene than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported when it linked contaminants in two water wells to hydraulic fracturing, but only one well was tested this time.
    (there’s more)
    From Investors Business Daily: EPA Funds Green Groups That Sue The Agency To Expand
    Posted 07/06/2011 06:17 PM ET

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