The latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the hiring climate in the U.S. appears to be struggling, adding only 69,000 jobs last month while the gains made in March and April were revised down. In addition to the 12.7 million people out of work, another 2.4 million are not currently in the labor force who hope to find work soon.
But despite these numbers, one sector is showing considerable growth, and has done so since 2007, the Brookings Institute reports.
According to the news source, the oil and gas industry has grown rapidly as new advancements in extraction methods have been transferred to the field. Most notably, hydraulic fracturing has led to a huge increase in the amount of natural gas and petroleum available to U.S. energy consumers. For the past few months, the Brookings Institute's Hamilton Project has explored the employment trends following the Great Recession, and in preparation for the project's energy forum at Stanford University, has looked specifically at energy employment.
Hydraulic fracturing has led to much more efficient extraction of natural gas reserves. The method has resulted in a jump in shale gas production of nearly 50 percent between 2008 and 2009. Natural gas production increased from 18.5 trillion cubic feet in 2006 to 23 trillion cubic feet in 2011, the media outlet stated.
All this activity has had a remarkable effect on domestic economic activity, including employment. According to the media outlet, between 2007 and 2011, energy staffing in the oil and gas business grew by 28,000 jobs. What's more, employment in support activities added another 45,000 jobs in that period.
The growth has been most pronounced in states with ample shale gas reserves, including Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. Each of these states added more than 10,000 jobs in its oil and gas sectors between 2007 and 2011. Oklahoma and West Virginia were also noted, each adding between 5,000 and 10,000 jobs in the industry.
Even states operating traditional oil sites are experiencing growth in the energy sector. According to the Alaska Dispatch, the state's oil and gas workforce grew by 5 percent in 2011 to 9,062 workers. Much of the employment gains have been in oil patch work, as many operations are beginning to perform maintenance on their aging extraction equipment. The recent gains in Alaska's oil and gas industry follow a growth of 2 percent between 2010 and 2011, with the number of jobs rising from 12,700 employees to 13,000 in 2011.
As of May 31, the U.S. faces a jobs gap of 11.3 million jobs. For this gap to close, the economy will need to add about 208,000 jobs every month - the average monthly rate during the best years for job creation in the last decade - through May 2020. If the economy adds 321,000 jobs per month, which was accomplished in periods during the 1990s, pre-recession employment numbers could be reached by 2016, the report stated.
The authors of the report concluded that when dealing with new technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, a level of uncertainty must always be taken into account. The U.S. natural gas and oil production industry will have some effect on employment and the energy sector, however the exact impact is yet to be seen.