Economist: US jobs climb along with oil boom

A surge in U.S. jobs has accompanied America’s new drilling boom, putting workers into the oil fields of North Dakota, Texas and other states, an economist told a Washington, D.C. energy summit on Thursday.

For nearly two decades, direct jobs tied to oil and gas extraction stayed relatively flat, noted Andrew Lyon, a principal in PwC’s National Economics and Statistics group.

But fast forward to 2005, and, suddenly, the trend line spiked up.

Direct oil and gas extraction jobs nearly doubled between 2005 and 2011, according to Lyon, speaking at the U.S. Energy Association’s 6th annual Energy Supply Forum. There were about 800,000 jobs directly tied to extraction in 2011 nationwide.

But some states saw explosive growth, notably areas where the oil and gas industry is using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies to unlock newly recoverable resources.

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In North Dakota, for instance, oil and gas extraction jobs were roughly flat until 2005, but the state then saw employment grow more than sixfold over the next six years.

PwC has done employment research and economic analysis for the oil industry, including a study for the American Petroleum Institute, that linked the sector to 9.8 million indirect and direct jobs.

Lyon stressed that the industry is still an outlier in an otherwise bumpy U.S. economy.

“Given the sluggish employment growth in the United States overall, this has been a very significant support for the economy,” he said. And the positive benefits are bound to continue, Lyon added, noting that “clearly this industry is a major factor behind…the U.S. manufacturing renaissance.”

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