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Want Jobs? Drill Shale, Statistics Indicate

Two counties in western Pennsylvania, which is in a red hot region of the Marcellus Shale, were among the top 10 in the nation for employment gains in large counties between March 2010 and March 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The federal data indicated that Washington County was in third place at 4.3%, tied with Prince William County, VA, and Benton County, WA. Pennsylvania's Butler County was tied for fourth place at 4.2% with Loudoun County, VA. The survey looked at counties with 75,000 or more employees.

According to Washington County's Scott Fergus, director of administration, "most of the job growth...is tied to Marcellus Shale gas drilling." Butler County's Joel MacKay of the planning commission gave credit to the Marcellus activity but he also attributed gains from the siting of a Westinghouse Co. facility during the period.

Williamsport, PA, also an active area for Marcellus activity, is seeing similar economic growth, according to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis. It found that Williamsport was the seventh fastest growing metropolitan area in the country in 2010. Mayor Gabriel Campana gave credit to the Marcellus Shale and the gas industry.

"It's validating what we've been saying all this time," said Williamsport Chamber of Commerce CEO Vince Matteo. "Without the Marcellus Shale, any growth would be a lot lower..."

An economic impact study issued on Monday by the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center (MSETC) found that many municipalities are reporting job growth and related effects from that. About half of the municipalities surveyed said employment had increased, but only 28% said unemployment rates had decreased. The disparity between the numbers, according to the MSETC, likely is related to the "amount of in-migration of new workers; there are more jobs due to Marcellus Shale, yet the in-migration of workers means there are more workers competing for those new jobs, reducing the impact on unemployment rates."

Job growth is hardly confined to Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, nor is it confined to the Marcellus. Onshore independent natural gas and oil producers supported almost 400,000 direct workers and generated $263 billion in gross economic output in 2010, according to the Independent Petroleum Association of America (see Shale Daily, April 12).

If shale drilling advances in New York, which is in the process of formulating drilling rules, more jobs would follow, according to the Public Policy Institute of New York State Inc. The institute said a scenario where 500 gas wells were drilled every year in the state would create 62,620 jobs, $2.7 billion in added value and $1 billion in local, state and federal tax revenue (see Shale Daily, Aug. 2).

Earlier this year a study by West Virginia University's Bureau of Business and Economic Research found that gas drilling in the state's portion of the Marcellus Shale is on track to create up to 20,000 jobs by 2015 (see Shale Daily, Jan. 26).

Beyond the Marcellus, a study issued last month by the Ohio Oil and Gas Association found that Utica Shale development could create or support more than 200,000 jobs and bring billions into the state economy (see Shale Daily, Sept. 23). And an economic study on the Barnett Shale by the Perryman Group found that the shale play had expanded the economy of the 24-county region in North Texas by 38% (see Shale Daily, Sept. 28).

The shale plays are proving that the energy industry is a job creator, said ExxonMobil Corp. executives. ExxonMobil, which is the largest domestic natural gas producer, is investing in Pennsylvania, not only through its massive leasehold in the Marcellus Shale but also through manufacturing. Last month affiliate SeaRiver Maritime Inc. and Aker Philadelphia Shipyard inked an agreement to build two Liberty Class oil tankers that is expected to create more than 1,000 direct jobs over two years; the vessels are to be used to transport Alaska North Slope crude oil to U.S. West Coast destinations.

"The benefits generated by these ships will be in addition to the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in government revenues the energy industry has already created in Pennsylvania through development of Marcellus Shale natural gas, which is also providing new, affordable energy supplies," said ExxonMobil Senior Vice President Andy Swiger. "Shale gas development has already contributed to a 130% rise in jobs in the state's oil and gas industries over the last 10 years. And development of shale gas is creating similar job booms in West Virginia, Ohio, North Dakota, Texas and Oklahoma."

The "multiplier effect" of economic activity from shale production is not just confined to one area, noted ExxonMobil's Ken Cohen, who is vice president of public and government affairs.

"Pennsylvania, North Dakota, West Virginia and many other states can attest to the jobs, royalties and tax revenues that shale production creates," said Cohen. The latest findings on jobs "provide policymakers a playbook for spurring economic growth, creating jobs and reducing deficits by supporting development of America's enormous unconventional natural gas resources."

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