Energy industry has lowest unemployment rates, highest salary hikes

Americans searching for jobs last year had a rough time in 2011.

A relatively strong ending to 2011 saw the unemployment rate sink to 8.5 percent, and Houston – fueled by health care services, restaurants and retail — saw 3.4 percent in new jobs over the past year.

Data released by the Labor Department showed the unemployment rates of more than 500 fields in the United States, and it’s no surprise which fields had the lowest rates – energy, health care and management – and which had the highest – construction.

Natural gas and oil booms in Texas, Pennsylvania and North Dakota have fueled thousands of jobs, and engineers are in high demand as oil and natural gas companies try to unlock energy from tight shale plays.

Recruitment firm NES Global Talent said there will be a growing demand for skilled work labors in the oil and natural gas industry in 2012.

However, the construction field didn’t fair as well.

The unemployment rate for construction workers was more than 16 percent, but several other industries suffered the same slowdown.

Here is a link to the data.

Oil and gas jobs are commanding the highest pay hikes, too, according to the PayScale Index. A report released this week found that the U.S. wages rose about 1 percent across the board in 2011, but rose fastest in the “mining, oil and gas exploration” industry.

Workers in that field were paid about 2.6 percent more in the fourth quarter of 2011 than in the same period in 2010.

Boosted by that industry, Houston claimed the fastest growing salaries among the 20 metropolitan areas tracked, rising 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter year-over-year.