The untold jobs boom: Non-green edition

The economy stinks. Employers aren’t hiring. The big money is staying on the sidelines. We hear these stories every day, and it’s certainly depressing. But as the Wall Street Journal notes, there is one exception to this rule which is providing some hope and relief in a number of areas across the country. If you got all of your information from White House press releases, you might think it’s in the “green economy,” and the development of solar panels, organic roof tiles or bovine flatulence inhibitors. (Go ahead… click on the link. I dare you.)

But no… the boom in jobs and opportunity isn’t coming from “green.” It’s being found in “brown” – the same old reliable energy sources we’ve been dealing in for decades. Yep.. oil land natural gas.

So President Obama was right all along. Domestic energy production really is a path to prosperity and new job creation. His mistake was predicting that those new jobs would be “green,” when the real employment boom is taking place in oil and gas.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently that the U.S. jobless rate remains a dreadful 9%. But look more closely at the data and you can see which industries are bucking the jobless trend. One is oil and gas production, which now employs some 440,000 workers, an 80% increase, or 200,000 more jobs, since 2003. Oil and gas jobs account for more than one in five of all net new private jobs in that period.

The ironies here are richer than the shale deposits in North Dakota’s Bakken formation. While Washington has tried to force-feed renewable energy with tens of billions in special subsidies, oil and gas production has boomed thanks to private investment. And while renewable technology breakthroughs never seem to arrive, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have revolutionized oil and gas extraction—with no Energy Department loan guarantees needed.

Which state has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation right now? South Dakota. (At 3.5%) And they’re pumping oil at more than 200 rigs, with more waiting to come on line. There are currently more than 16,000 job openings posted, many of them in the above $100K range.

Pennsylvania and Ohio aren’t far behind, though the majority of those jobs are in the natural gas industry. This is mostly from the staggering resources available in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays. And yet, as the WSJ editors note, Washington somehow seems to continue pursuing policies which inhibit growth in these areas while flushing more taxpayer dollars we don’t have into technologies which routinely fail to bear economically viable fruit.

What can you do? That part is easy. Get to work. If it’s in your area of ability, jump in and grab one of those jobs. And even if you can’t, let others know that this is going on. We’re not talking about fuzzy, future possibilities which may or may not pay off in the latter half of this century. These jobs are here now. And to be clear, I think we will continue to explore and expand research into future technologies, many of which may pay dividends down the road. But we need jobs now. And they’re out there.