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Blue-collar benefits from unconventionals

There are a lot of good story lines in the IHS study on unconventional oil and natural gas that I mentioned yesterday, from the millions of new jobs created to the trillions of dollars of investment and tax revenues expected over the next several decades.

One aspect of the jobs story to catch my eye is the positive impact that the unconventional resource revolution will have on what the report classifies as blue-collar jobs.

The IHS study makes clear that blue-collar workers, in particular, stand to gain from the rise in economic activity brought on by increased oil and gas production.

These include well-paid jobs for skilled positions such as for pipefitters, steamfitters, cement masons and pump operators, as well as semi-skilled positions for welders, inspectors and truck drivers.

The study cites Bureau of Labor Statistics data to show that skilled electricians, plumbers and pump-system operators on average can earn more than $26 per hour; semi-skilled positions requiring little starting experience can command nearly $20 per hour.

Numbers like these help explain why, as the report notes, “median annual wages for extraction and for oil and natural gas workers exceed the national median wage by 15 percent and 11 percent respectively.”

This development in the oil and gas sector is significant because the blue-collar sector of the economy has been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn in recent years.

The accompanying chart from the Economic Policy Institute’s “The State of Working America” report drives home the fact that the recession adversely affected blue-collar workers to a far greater degree than employees in the white-collar or service sectors.

President Obama recently said that “after a decade of decline, this country created over half a million manufacturing jobs in the last two and a half years.” What the IHS report adds in such a timely way is a detail missing from the President’s statement: namely, that much of this manufacturing comeback directly results from the innovations and contributions of the oil and gas industry.

Thanks to IHS and their new report, now you know the rest of the story.

  • Worth a deeper look...