Forbes: Gassing Up–Why America's Future Job Growth Lies In Traditional Energy Industries

Source:  Joel Kotkin, Forbes, September 27, 2011.

An Oil Pump in western North DakotaIn his new book, The Coming Jobs War, Gallup CEO James Clifton defines what he calls an “all-out global war for good jobs.” Clifton envisions a world-wide struggle for new, steady employment, with the looming threat of “suffering, instability, chaos and eventually revolution” for those who fail to secure new economic opportunities.

In the US, this conflict can be seen as a kind of new war between the states, each fighting not only for employment but for jobs that pay enough to support a middle-class lifestyle.

My colleagues at Praxis Strategy Group and I have looked over data for the period after the economy started to weaken in 2006. Using stats from EMSI, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we compared sectors by growth, and then by average salary.

Not surprisingly “recession-proof” fields such as health care and education expanded some 11% over the past five years. More inexplicably, given its role in detonating the Great Recession, the financial sector expanded some 10%.

But the biggest growth by far has taken place in the mining, oil and natural gas industries, where jobs expanded by 60%, creating a total of 500,000 new jobs. While that number is not as large as those generated by health care or education, the quality of these jobs are far higher. The average job in conventional energy pays about $100,000 annually — about $20,000 more than finance or professional services pay. The wages are more than twice as high as those in either health or education.

Nor is this expansion showing signs of slowing down. Contrary to expectations pushed by “peak oil” enthusiasts, overall US oil production has grown by 10% since 2008; the import share of U.S. oil consumption has dropped to 47% from 60% in 2005. Over the next year, according to one recent industry-funded study, oil and gas could create an additional 1.5 million new jobs.

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