The most recent jobs report may not have met expectations, but the data did show one unmistakable trend: Domestic energy production continues to lift the U.S. economy.
The March employment report, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed the U.S. oil and natural gas industry continuing to grow jobs at a pace faster than the national average. It also provided evidence that expanding supplies of oil and natural gas are fueling a “renaissance” in U.S. manufacturing – everything from automobiles to steel to paper.
- While nationwide job growth slowed in March, jobs in oil and natural gas extraction grew by 3,100 – nearly twice as much as the previous month, the report said. Note that the “oil and gas extraction” category includes only jobs directly involved in oil and gas production, and therefore represents only a fraction of the employment associated with U.S. energy production.
- Over the past year, the “oil and gas extraction” category has added 26,300 direct jobs – an increase of 16 percent, compared to 1.5 percent growth nationwide.
Where are these energy jobs coming from? From states like North Dakota and Texas and Pennsylvania, where advances in technologies are tapping the “unconventional” oil and natural gas found in shale and other rock formations. The results have been dramatic. U.S. output of natural gas rose to a record high in 2011, up 6.5 percent from the year before and up 21 percent from five years earlier, according to the Energy Information Administration.
But it’s not just energy jobs. America’s oil and gas resurgence is supporting the creation of new jobs in other industries, including manufacturing.
As an article in the Wall Street Journal noted, expanded U.S. natural gas supplies are helping reverse a long decline in U.S. industrial activity. These new supplies, plus current low U.S. natural gas prices, “gives an edge” to U.S. producers of fabricated steel, transportation equipment, machinery and chemicals, who use natural gas extensively.
You can see this trend at work in the March jobs report. Manufacturing employment rose by 37,000, with gains in motor vehicles and parts (up 11,600), machinery (up 6,500), fabricated metals (up 4,900), and chemicals, plastics and rubber products (up 6,300).
As the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted, U.S. factory employment has risen by 470,000 since a recent low point in January 2010.
With the government’s own jobs data clearly showing the link between U.S. energy and the U.S. economy, the United States should be doing all it can to support domestic energy production – avoiding arbitrary and punitive tax policies, expanding access to reserves, supporting safe development and production, and expediting the permitting and construction of the pipelines and other infrastructure that gets these new energy supplies to market.
As the Wall Street Journal article noted, many experts think America’s manufacturing renaissance “is just getting started.”
The energy industry is helping fuel this renaissance; let’s make sure we keep it going for everyone’s benefit.