What boom? Industry pundits claim thousands of jobs will be created, but numbers don’t quite add up
Posted: Saturday, May 4, 2013 11:00 pm
By Rachel Morgan ShaleReporter.com | 5 comments
Industry, legislators, geologists — even the press — called it a game-changer.
They predicted it would create hundreds of thousands — even millions — of jobs. They talked about energy independence, waves of new industry flocking to the area. But today, years into the Marcellus shale boom, the numbers tell a different story.
Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is now higher than the national average.
The state lost 5,800 jobs last year, ranking 49th in the nation for job creation. The latest government data shows that Marcellus shale development brought about 6,362 jobs annually to the state, which accounts for less than 0.5 percent of the workforce.
If the out-of-state license plates on energy company trucks are any evidence, there’s seems to be a good deal of imported labor working in the Marcellus shale region.
So where is the Marcellus shale boom?
According to Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry statistics, the state’s unemployment rate is now 7.9 percent — more than the national average of 7.5 percent. There are 32 states with lower unemployment rates, data shows. This year’s state unemployment rate is also higher than last year’s 7.6 percent.
Pennsylvania also was one of only seven states with unemployment rate increases, the department said. And they also expect Pennsylvania’s rate to keep rising, predicting an unemployment rate of 8 percent by the second quarter of this year.
However, the state’s March unemployment rate (the most recent available) was slightly lower than February’s rate of 8.1 percent. Department of Labor and Industry officials said Friday that state unemployment rates for April would be released May 17.
Experts say that the Marcellus boom may not be as big as the talk that surrounds it.
“The Marcellus is an important new industry, and there’s certainly no question that is has, over the last several years, created employment in Pennsylvania,” said Mark Price, labor economist for the Keystone Research Center. “But it remains the fact that employment overall in that sector — you’re talking about something that is less than 0.5 percent of the workforce … a tiny portion of all the jobs.”
Yet industry groups such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition continue to tout the industry’s job creation, citing numbers in the millions for new jobs created by shale.
“Employment in the entire upstream unconventional oil and gas sector on a direct, indirec and induced basis will support nearly 1.8 million jobs in 2012, 2.5 million jobs in 2015, 3 million jobs in 2020, and nearly 3.5 million jobs in 2035,” said Marcellus Shale Coalition spokesman Travis Windle.
When asked why the unemployment rate is rising despite natural gas development, Windle said that you can’t blame the unemployment rate on just one segment of the economy.
“While the natural gas industry continues to grow — and its number of associated jobs will certainly ebb and flow over time