Energy. Environment. Economy.

What happened to 160,000 fracking jobs? Under Wolf, the numbers change

Workers at a natural gas site in Bradford County.

AP Photo/Ralph Wilson

Last week Pennsylvania changed the way it counts jobs associated with the Marcellus Shale industry.

Somehow Pennsylvania lost 160,000 gas industry jobs overnight.

What happened? Did drillers flee at the specter of a new tax on production? Not quite. Although companies have been laying off workers and cutting costs– lackluster market conditions don’t explain this shift.

Instead, it was a decision made under Governor Wolf’s new administration. Last week the state Department of Labor and Industry quietly changed the way it tracks employment in the Marcellus Shale industry.

“Those numbers were a joke,” says John Hanger, Wolf’s secretary of planning and policy. ”The errors were so glaring, they had to be changed.”

Wolf’s predecessor Tom Corbett, a Republican, often credited drillers with supporting more than 200,000 Pennsylvania jobs.

“We were very uncomfortable with some of the misrepresentations under the past administration,” says labor department spokeswoman Sara Goulet. “The numbers we put out had caveats. [The Corbett administration] was misrepresenting them.”

As StateImpact Pennsylvania has previously reported, the way the state reported gas jobs had been repeatedly questioned over the years by independent economists.

Roughly 30,000 people work directly in six “core” oil and gas industry jobs. But starting in 2011, the labor department began publishing a monthly booklet called Marcellus Shale Fast Facts, which showed about 200,000 other jobs in 30 “ancillary” industries. This figure included every road construction worker, trucker, and steel worker in Pennsylvania– whether they had ties to the gas industry or not. The two numbers (core and ancillary) were often added together by industry boosters, who then claimed the Marcellus Shale supported a quarter-million jobs statewide.

In its new analysis, the labor department credits the gas industry with 89,314 jobs during the third quarter of 2014. The figure includes direct jobs and those in related industries. The department used a economic analysis software tool called IMPLAN (Impact Analysis for Planning) to calculate the number.

“That’s an important number,” says Hanger. “It’s an impressive number.”

Overall, it’s 160,122 fewer jobs than the department recently reported for the same quarter, using its old accounting method. David Spigelmyer who heads the gas industry trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, criticized the change as being politically motivated. Drillers are in the midst of fighting Wolf’s proposal to levy new severance tax on gas production.

“This administration’s words continue to be detached from its actions as it relates to policy matters and enhancing Pennsylvania’s energy leadership,” Spigelmyer said in a statement. “Why put this important economic analysis in the hands of the governor’s political team rather than relying on career state policy analysts?”

Hanger disputes that characterization– noting the department didn’t issue a press release or make any announcement about the changes.

“I think that goes to further proof we were not being political,” he says. “The career staff over at [Labor and Industry] did this analysis. I didn’t do this. This is an attempt to provide people with good information about this industry. Nothing more, nothing less.”



  • jpb

    A press release may not have been issued but the information is obviously out there, isn’t it.

  • freighty

    its amazing the amount of non English speaking persons are working at the gas pads for Weatherford and Haliburton. mostly rig movers and fracking workers.. I was a guard at gas pads north of Williamsport at Range Resources sites ..

    • Edmund Phillips

      That is because the English spoken by recent students is almost functionally illiterate, as well as the laziest group of citizens that loafed on this earth. if it wasn’t for the non English speaking working class there would be nobody to do the jobs. Put down your crack pipe and look around you.

    • Raul Kabinza

      they passed the drug tests, which I’m told many Pennsylvanians struggle with.

      Anecdotal, I know, but it makes sense.

    • disqus_8ii07fUFn0

      It’s amazing how many non English employees work illegally in America.

      • Martin_vanburen

        But who do the work for?

  • mike

    One administration says do it this way, the next administration says do it that way. Government agencies pump out facts and figures to accommodate the party in power and are, therefore not to be trusted by anyone.

    • 16 TONS

      all true, though many had always questioned the validity of the original numbers from the beginning

  • Sameasit Everwas

    Funny, that’s exactly what the Obama administration did when counting jobs saved by bailing out his union buddies at GM. They counted everybody all the way down to the lunch truck guy and managed to find 750,000 workers saved by the bailout even though GM only employeed 250,000…..WORLDWIDE.

    Although the articles that are critical of that method that Obama employed are some how mysteriously absent from NPR archives.

    The sooner NPR is de-funded the better for the sake of truth.

    • cuate87

      And they did the same exact thing when they counted garbage truck drivers and workers as new “green jobs” because the fuel used was switched from gasoline or diesel to CNG or propane. Pureeee RUBBISH! Just more BS in support of a political agenda.

    • woodauger

      Corbett didn’t claim the jobs were “saved” – his statements lean towards jobs “created”. There is a difference. The Obama claim is closer to true – as those support people really would take a hit if the entire company had folded

      • Sameasit Everwas

        “closer to true”. LOL

        • xboxershorts

          All job numbers are estimates. Closer to true, though clunky, is an accurate way to make the point

    • Alejandro Robert

      WHAT?! |Are you brain dead? Bailing out his union buddies? Bush and congress and THEN Obama and congress bailed out most of the industry including the execs and investors plus the unions but not until everyone made painful concessions.

      President George W. Bush stepped in Friday to keep America’s auto industry afloat, announcing a $17.4 billion bailout for GM and Chrysler, with the terms of the loans requiring that the firms radically restructure and show they can become profitable soon. Dec 19, 2008

      My god do some BASIC research if you are capable of it. You do yourself no service puking up misinformation like this as if it wasn’t just 10 years ago. The sooner you go back to school and learn the three Rs the better. Twit . Oh wait “mysteriously absent from NPR archives” I meant paranoid twit

      • Sameasit Everwas

        It wasn’t bush that strong armed the bondholders of GM into accepting pennies on the dollar and moving the unions to the head of the line.

        Your Bush Derangement Syndrome is exposing you for the imbecile John Gruber said you people are.

        • xboxershorts

          As if the leaders at GM could have been trusted to guide the behemoth out of bankruptcy, after all they were the one’s that drove it into bankruptcy. And it was the GMAC financing branch, which got involved in the mortgage business which accounted for the vast majority of GMs crushing debt and that was done with the blessings of GMs bond holders. Thus, as the responsible party for so many poor decisions, the bond holders taking the hit in GMs bankruptcy makes perfect business and moral sense.

          Why should hourly assembly line workers be made to pay for the recklessness of the finance arm?

          Also, it was the GW Bush administration who designed and began the GM bailout and bankruptcy. Probably one of Bush’s more intelligent and well thought out programs

          • mike

            x-No other company had to be taken through bankruptcy by the federal government.
            Large bankruptcies happen all the time with no assistance from the treasury dept.
            It doesn’t matter which part of the enterprise was more at fault, it is the fact that it cannot meet it’s obligations, when that happens you reorganize and if necessary close your doors.

          • xboxershorts

            Chrysler did. PS, you fail to acknowledge, maybe don’t remember, that no bank was in a position to provide DIP financing to either company at the level needed to work it’s way through bankruptcy.

            And it does matter which part of the enterprise was at greatest risk.

            DIP financing = Debtor in Possession, a loan too allow continuity of business operations as assets are quantified and qualified for disposition.

          • Sameasit Everwas

            Wrong, No bank wanted either company because the unions where unwilling to restructure the business model. There where plenty of investors standing by to buy up GM and Chrysler and keep those people working. Unions said no, Obama strong-armed the bond holders and unions got the majority stake of something they never owned.

            Obama should have been impeached an in an orange jumpsuit for that alone.

          • xboxershorts

            You go ahead and cling to your flawed beliefs. I shouldn’t have to point out to you that every single majr investment bank was currently experiencing the simultaneous meltdown of trillions of dollars worth of bullshit mortgage backed derivatives and not one of them had the resources necessary to prop up GM and or Chrysler during bankruptcy. But you can believe whatever you wish to believe. This is, after all, the internet and it is, after all, full of morons. So, enjoy the day…

          • Sameasit Everwas

            LOL…that’s a flat out lie from a flat out liar. Every bank? Laughable at best.

          • xboxershorts

            Actually, there was no one willing to stand up and purchase GM’s operations.


            You are a clueless partisan nit with no conscience and less integrity.

          • mike

            Bankruptcy is when you cannot meet your obligations.
            If you make widgets and digits, and widgets are profitable and digits are not and drag your company down, it makes no difference, you are still broke.

          • xboxershorts

            I was employed by a corporation that had multiple divisions which went through bankruptcy. It actually did matter and when the various parts were spun off, it mattered even more. Because the big loser from that corporation got split up and sold off in pieces.

            I don’t claim to hold a GED or Internet Diploma in Bankruptcy law but my personal experience tells me the corporate divisions matter a lot.

          • mike

            X-That is called reorganization. That is what bankruptcy is all about. You try to salvage what still has value and discard the rest. That is what would have happened to GM if the normal process had been followed. It is an open question as to their survival, but they did not deserve special treatment.

          • xboxershorts

            That’s exactly what GM did. They shed their finance arm, GMAC became Ally, they sold off Opal and other European brands and closed the doors on about 2000 dealerships and closed several factories.

            GM re-organized.

          • mike

            The fact that a special “Car Czar” was appointed to give special treatment to the UAW, while cheating the bond holders and non union employees out of what they would have gotten in a normal bankruptcy, makes a world of difference.

          • xboxershorts

            Y a know, I don’t give a damn if you hate unions. m no big fan of unions either. But the UAW did nothing wrong here. Not this time. But dude…you are so fucking blind to the bankruptcy of GM you seem to want to say any god damned thing just to not have to acknowledge that maybe you had some incorrect information.

            You are just another fucking troll. Wrong as hell and so goddamned blinded by ideology that you don’t give a fuck what the actual record says.

          • mike

            I received an email from disqus containing a vile and disgusting diatribe attributed to you.
            This post was so horrendous that Disqus apparently deleted it.

            In it you accused me of being wrong and closed minded on the subject of GM’s bankruptcy and calling me names simply for disagreeing with you.
            You are the reason that decent honorable people cannot enjoy any sort of meaningful discourse in an effort to solve problems.
            I hope to never hear from you again!

          • firftrmark

            Wouldnt own a Chrysler if you gave it to me.

          • Sameasit Everwas

            Bush Derangement syndrome on full display.

          • mike

            Same – Bush was the guy who imposed the tea tax and stamp act that caused the Revolution.
            He also planted the apple tree in the Garden of Eden and the bombs that caused Kracatowa and Pompeii to erupt.
            Move out the last century and get about fixing things instead trying to find someone to blame.

    • xboxershorts

      Why? Because you’re corporate buddies can’t completely control NPR?

      As if big business is somehow more trustworthy than a taxpayer funded outlet…

      • Edmund Phillips

        if it wasn’t for corporations you wouldn’t have a place to post your moronic remarks. You, my man, are denying a village somewhere of an idiot.Typical liberal dirt ball, you want the government to tell you what to eat, when to eat, when to sleep and when to shit. and when they tell when to shit you are the first liberal to squat. And you wonder why this country is in the state of affairs its in. The lights are flashing, the gate is down. ……………..BUT There is No Train!

      • mike

        X-No taxpayer funded outlet is to be trusted. If they don’t tow the line the funding gets cut. The purpose of any so called news outlet is to report the story including the things that make the supposed good guys look bad.
        You like NPR because they report in a way that you agree with. Others like FOX for the same reason.
        I listen to both and makeup my own mind.

        • xboxershorts

          I barely listen to NPR, don’t make assumptions about people you know nothing about.

        • Martin_vanburen

          I never listen to Fox and barely listen to NPR and always with my skeptic module on.

      • Sameasit Everwas

        That’s your rational? Equating dishonesty and bias with some perceived ‘stick it the man” canard.

        What a completely disconnected buff00n.

      • Sameasit Everwas

        That’s your rational? Equating dishonesty and bias with some perceived ‘stick it the man” canard.

        What a completely disconnected buff00n.

        • xboxershorts

          We already know you’re little more than a troll. When you’re done name calling, you can join the adults then.

          • Sameasit Everwas

            You don’t know anything other than what you receive in your inbox every morning. You are the one that john gruber and the dems need to pass their agenda.

      • CygnusX68

        Business are acountable when they produce an inferior product that cost too much. They go under. Government simply takes more money out of the taxpayers pockets.

        Of cource, when big business jumps in bed with government every one gets screwed. Just like GE, Google, GM, etc… all in bed with Obama.

    • bill

      None of this number manipulation is new. The Reagan Administration added the military to beef up his poor job numbers. A much better measure of the economic contribution of an industry to the GDP is salaries. The average shale worker salary is around $60,000.00. So 1 shale worker equals about 4 minimum wage workers in total contribution to the economy.

  • DoryHippauf

    and PennEast counts a food truck employee as a job “created”…..

    • disqus_8ii07fUFn0

      Well if they’re selling food to the fracking employees and the fracking employees leave and the food truck no longer has customers the food truck employee now no longer has a job……..was that job created by fracking?

      • Martin_vanburen

        No, by an entrepreneur.

        • disqus_8ii07fUFn0

          Would he be an entrepreneur if he had no customers because fracking was outlawed?

          • Martin_vanburen

            Yes, still an entrepreneur, maybe not such a good one.

          • Mike Allen

            Zip up Martin, your ignorance is showing hanging out for all to read.

          • Martin_vanburen

            What are you babbling about?

  • george lentz

    Where’s Corbett now? Anybody know?

    • Henry Lipshitz

      Probably glad he is not Governor any more. Making more money and not having to answer stupid questions.

  • Don Martinez

    I wonder how many of those jobs are listed through temp agencies to get out of paying other benefits which consists of the temp agency circle jerk employee job rotation. oh I almost forgot and to fill those needs of the employers the temp agency takes 50% of the pay and pockets it like true dirt bags. they rank up there with the cash a check people.

  • Vito Randazzo

    Seems to me ancilary jobs such as mechanics road crews and the pipe makers, hardware suppliers and such would not be working if the drillers were not drilling. So this is the democrats way of fudging numbers to look like they were not so great when they need themselves to look better. Politics as usual instead of doing constructive things with government time and money they continue to piss and moan each other with wasteful politcs.

    • Cobbtown

      Try reading the article again, Vito. Ancillary workers are being counted.

      • Vito Randazzo

        Not what I read it said it used to count them.

  • RL S

    awhile back i saw another states politicians interpertaion

  • Justin Ahlquist

    There is a difference between E&P jobs and service jobs, direct and indirect positions. The closet to the well keeps their job. These “fracking” jobs are service jobs involved with completions and there were never 160k jobs directly related to frack crews.

  • vrlc58

    “David Spigelmyer who heads the gas industry trade group, the Marcellus
    Shale Coalition, criticized the change as being politically motivated.”

    Ho ho ho, ha ha ha. Those gas companies brought the dregs of society into small town America, destroying everything they touched. The negative impact of those gas companies on water quality, road quality, safety, health, simple way of life, etc. does NOT balance things out for most people living in NEPA. What these companies did and continue to do is not fixable.

    I really want to know why Wolf and Hanger haven’t banished these companies from the state. They KNOW what the Marcellus Shale Coalition is; they KNOW these companies destroy water; they KNOW the MSC and the companies it represents manipulated local government representatives, police officers, business leaders, etc.; they KNOW MSC is connected to the Bravo Group which is connected to Homeland Security; they know all the political shenanigans these companies and the MSC have gotten into as they’ve deprived regular people of having a say about what goes on in their own backyards. Yet Wolf and Hanger continue to hang on? Hang on to something that is destroying everything that made the state worth living in?

    • Raul Kabinza

      all is ‘fixable’ and Wolf is also bought by a good industry that needs proper policing.

      I led a call for the tripling of well inspectors, and so far that number has been doubled. Yet we have the funds to do better.

      • vrlc58

        Really?….my $154K house is now worth $75K. Care to buy it and make me whole?

        • firftrmark

          Who said your house was worth 154k? Gullible and over paid is what you did.

    • Roberto Cirilo

      VRLC58 I imagine you do not use natural gas to heat your home, you do not put gasoline in your car and do not use anything made of plastic which is oil product. Or is it OK to use all these oil and gas products as long as they drill the wells away from your backyard?

      • vrlc58

        Are you kidding me? You’re STILL using that old argument??? When I first objected, you’re damn right I didn’t want it in my backyard. Now? Now that I see how irresponsible this industry’s leadership is, now that I see the bigger picture? You people had every opportunity to ensure you drilled responsibly, but instead you bullied your way into communities, destroyed water and air quality, raped the land, and made way too many little guys go broke….and pretty soon you’re going to wipe your hands of it all. Laugh all the way to the bank with your loot. You should all be in jail for not just defrauding the American public, but for crimes against humanity both here in the US and around the globe. YOU people have destroyed what most of us hoped would be a better world for our children.

        • Roberto Cirilo

          It is an old argument because it is true, if you put gasoline in your vehicle and use heating and power you are supporting the companies that drill wells in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and the rest of the globe. For some reason I do not remember hearing many complaints when the oil came from the middle east, I guess it must have been ok to detroy somebody else’s backyard.

        • firftrmark

          Your global BS is just that. It is not up to anyone or even possible to make anything better for a future generation. Your are a brainwashed leftist eco wacko. Do you have a time machine? You will be long gone and the future will never be as you dreamed, just as passed generations would never have dreamed what we have today!

    • firftrmark

      Where do you live? And if you live in the stated “destroyed” area let’s see facts, no bravoda. I live in the area and see no destruction . its in my back yard so to speak and I have no problem . People having jobs that provide for their family instead of having to rely on government beats your trumped up accusations.

  • Sam Bernhardt

    Governor Wolf might be deflating jobs numbers a bit, but he has still fallen for the myth that fracking helps our state. No amount of taxing will ameliorate the damage being done to our communities by this dangerous process with questionable economic benefits.

    • firftrmark

      Fracking has been around longer than you have been alive. Everything should have been destroyed by now. People working and providing for their family in the industry do not have to rely on taxpayers to take care of them which is a benefit to me as a taxpayer.

  • PennsylvaniaSage

    Obama always took credit for jobs saved.

  • unfortunatetaxpayer

    as a former employee for a Pioneer company in the Marcellus Shale I can attest that jobs (“created”) have significantly increased in south western PA. What are “jobs directly involved in gas”. is it simply those that drill frack and produce gas? Are they taking into consideration that there are consultants on location monitoring day to day operations. What about Environmental agencies sending teams to make sure gas companies are in compliance with rules and regulations? How about construction crews that build these locations and haul equipment to and from each location? What about surveyors who plot and stake each well site? Perhaps midstream companies who monitor pipeline and operate NGL (natural gas liquids) separation plants? All this article did was throw numbers out and didn’t fully inform readers what classifies as ” jobs directly involved in gas”. There are instances where small towns have seen large economical boosts because of the Marcellus Shale. Small business owners have seen a growth in business and therefore have opened second locations or increased employees. Although this may not classify as a job directly involved with gas it goes to show that those “ANCILLARY” industry jobs have been DIRECTLY affected. If a well established Trucking company shifts its company from hauling gravel to townships and other facilities to strictly hauling specifically for gas companies to help build locations and maintain their lease roads would one say that it is a job that has been DIRECTLY affected by the gas industry? what about small contracting companies who performed local construction in small towns who now have signed contracts with large gas companies building facilities and locations and seeing increased demand for employees? Townships for local communities in the Marcellus Shale region have seen increased road traffic and are being compensated from gas companies to hire employees to fix and maintain roadways. Simply put because of the Marcellus Shale in the State of Pennsylvania there has absolutely been an increase in jobs “created”. Now as a tax payer in this poorly GOVERNED state a tax break is something we all desire but will never see. Governor Wolf’s proposed Tax Levy on natural gas production is an absurd way to relieve an already budget strapped state. Monies generated will pay for 1yrs pensions to those state employees seeking compensation. So when large gas companies begin to feel the affect of the tax levy they will immediately reevaluate their companies direction in the State and cut jobs. So what in fact is the long term outcome of this proposed action? What has brought jobs into the state, increasing the economy ,and seeing the population grow, will be forced out and those longtime tax payers will actually see an increase in taxes. For those of you ANTI GAS people out there tell me what happens when there is NO NATURAL GAS OR PROPANE to heat your house or those favorite restaurants you frequent, or that backyard BBQ you have every summer? You may think that these Gas companies are polluting your water and in some cases incidents do happen but overall there are STRICT rules and regulations that are required to follow and are monitored almost daily. Fracking has been a method of releasing gas and oil for MANY MANY years and the technology has advanced so much it in fact has become safer and more accurate. So when you choose to point out a SINGLE incident and refuse to acknowledge every other time it has been successful be reminded that, without these companies in this state providing jobs, paying townships to fix and maintain your roadways, providing heat for your favorite businesses and your household, things could ultimately be a lot worse and more would be required out of your pocketbook to support this STATE.

  • jeannebodine

    Only Dems would want to lower the number of jobs created in their state. You can’t make this crap up. PA is so royally screwed.

    • Martin_vanburen

      Except the number of jobs in the state is not any lower due to this reporting.
      But I can tell you have problems with critical thinking and comprehension.

  • r smith

    Rule of thumb. One hundred jobs (directly and indirectly) for every drilling rig. We have used this figure since the early 80′s. (I have been in the industry for 38 years)

    • Jo Grieve

      New and locally hired?

      • r smith

        Hey Jo,
        Total employment affected! Thanks

  • Ernie Marraccini

    Wow, government data politically fudged! Who knew?

  • top secret

    Democrats take office….and jobs literally vanish! How telling.

  • Brent Stoltzfus

    Wolf is a fracking idiot.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »