The Oil and Gas Jobs Boom
Last week the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that the economic recovery was slowing, with growth recorded at a 2.2% rate in the first quarter of this year. Unemployment remains high, at more than 8%, while almost 13 million Americans are currently seeking work. Almost four million workers have been unemployed for a year or longer.
Should economic growth remain anemic, unemployment will stay high. As we’ve seen over the past three years, fiscal stimulus, low interest rates, and targeted jobs programs have provided only a modest boost to the economy. But if we can find a way to get back to a 4% growth rate, the economy’s prospects will improve markedly and the unemployment rate will tumble. Indeed, if growth could be sustained at an average of 4% for two years, we would find ourselves back at a “full employment” jobless rate of less than 6%.
Investing in our domestic energy sector can help get us back to that 4% goal. In fact, the energy sector, along with manufacturing — which has reaped a windfall from lower natural-gas prices — has been leading the modest economic expansion over the past two-and-one-half years.
Over the past four-and-one-half years, the oil and gas sector has added more than 650,000 jobs. Put differently, since the start of the “Great Recession,” employment has grown 16% percent in the oil and gas industry while total employment nationally is still not back to its pre-recession level.
Policies that encourage rather than retard energy investments are among the keys to achieving 4% growth. These include removing unreasonable restrictions on production both onshore and offshore, promoting the export of natural gas, moving ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline, and avoiding tax discrimination on the oil and gas industry.