The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

For U.S. Oil, Natural Gas - Every Day is Labor Day

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted August 30, 2013

Like our “jobs quilt” below? When thinking about the oil and natural gas industry’s contribution to the economy and everyday American life this Labor Day weekend, the 9.8 million jobs supported by the industry come to mind.

energy-jobs-quiltThe squares in the “quilt” detail industry’s jobs impact in various states – reflecting the fact that the economic lift of oil and natural gas development reaches all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to a recent PwC report.

In all, PwC found that America’s oil and natural gas industry accounted for 5.6 percent of total U.S. employment in 2011 (the most recent year for which complete data is available), was responsible for $598 billion in labor income and contributed $1.2 trillion to U.S. GDP, or 8 percent of the national total. That’s economic stimulus.

Here are some of the ways our industry is making this Labor Day better for millions of Americans:

Putting them to work – According to new statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, six of the seven metropolitan areas (population 50,000 or more) with the lowest jobless rates are located in areas of shale energy development (h/t to Mark J. Perry for sifting through the data):

  • Bismarck, N.D. – 2.5 percent

  • Sioux Falls, S.D. – 3 percent

  • Fargo, N.D. – 3.3 percent

  • Midland, Texas, and Rapid City, S.D.  – 3.5 percent

  • Billings, Mont., and Iowa City, Iowa – 3.9 percent

As Perry notes, all but Iowa City are within a few hundred miles of the Bakken or Permian Basin shale plays. The great news is the U.S. is blessed with vast shale reserves, and with access to those reserves and common-sense regulation, the economic benefits of shale energy via hydraulic fracturing can spread other places as well.

Providing work opportunity for the future – Industry estimates it will need 500,000 new workers for planned projects along the Gulf Coast between now and 2020. These will include skilled workers: electricians, pipefitters and welders. Industry is working with the pipefitters’ United Association and the AFL-CIO’s Construction and Building Trades Department on programs to train the workers to fill those jobs. “We want to make sure we’re prepared for the work of the future,” API President and CEO Jack Gerard told Fuel

This would help continue the arc of job creation noted recently by the U.S. Energy Information Administration – that the U.S. oil and natural gas industry created jobs 40 times as fast as the rest of the private sector from 2007 to 2012.

Spreading growth to other sectors – America’s natural gas revolution, spurred by advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, is helping U.S. manufacturing regain strength in the global market, according to a recent Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study. Natural Gas Daily (subscription publication) reports:

The BCG study said exports’ share of the US economy is at a 50-year high. In a stark reversal from recent decades, when American manufacturing jobs were sent offshore, companies are now bringing jobs back from countries such as China. … “We predict the US, as a result of its increasing competitiveness in manufacturing, will capture $70-115 billion in annual exports from other nations by the end of the decade,” the authors of the study, Harold Sirkin, Michael Zinser and Justin Rose, said.


The BCG study identifies low-cost gas as one of three major factors driving the shift in manufacturing. “Cheap domestic sources of gas translate into a significant competitive advantage for a number of US-based industries,” the study said, with gas costing 2.6 to 3.8 times more in Europe and Japan than in the US. That has lowered costs for industries using gas as a feedstock, such as chemicals, fertilizers and plastics.

Offering promise in new markets – Our natural gas abundance could make America a leader in the global market for exported liquefied natural gas (LNG), helping our balance of trade and boosting economic growth here at home. Studies by ICF International and NERA Economic Consulting detail job and GDP gains domestically from LNG exports. The lift will be broad with impact in states far from the nearest export terminal. The Denver Business Journal:

Colorado doesn't have a port, but the state's small businesses have a stake in whether the United States boosts the export of liquefied natural gas to other countries, according to the U.S. Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. That’s because Colorado, which produced 1.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2012, ranks fifth in the country for production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. “We have lots of natural gas here,” said Raymond Keating, the chief economist for the Vienna, Va.-based council. “And if we can serve the increase in global demand [that’s forecast] it will be an incredible benefit to our own economy.”

We could go on, but someone’s got to fire up the grill. Happy Labor Day, America, from the men and women of the oil and natural gas industry who provide the fuels that keep our country moving and growing.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.