U.S. energy boom has big impact on trade, but not jobs

  • Marie Cusick

A worker monitors pressurized testing at a  fracking site in Susquehanna County.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

A worker monitors pressurized testing at a fracking site in Susquehanna County.

America’s recent oil and gas boom, including the massive Marcellus production here in Pennsylvania, has dramatically shifted the nation’s trade deficit. But this has not translated into a large number of energy industry jobs.
There are just under 200,000 direct oil and gas jobs nationwide, according to October figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pennsylvania has about 28,000 of those jobs.
The Washington Post takes a closer look:

The numbers are stark. For the first 10 months of the year, the trade deficit in petroleum products narrowed by $48 billion, a 19 percent decrease. Among non-petroleum goods, the trade balance actually widened by more than $20 billion, a 5.6 percent increase. Those numbers are not adjusted for inflation, but energy prices have been broadly stable in the last couple of years …
But the number of jobs directly involved in getting oil and gas out of the ground remains quite small, even as America’s petroleum trade balance has shifted dramatically.  This shouldn’t be completely surprising. Oil and gas are industries where a huge portion of the economic output created comes not from the labors of individual oilmen or even the machines they are operating, but from a scarce substance that happens to be located below the ground. You would expect for the great majority of extra GDP driven by petroleum exports to translate not into more jobs for people who work in or support oil and gas extraction, but into profits for oil companies and owners of the land that is being tapped.

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