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The Brown Jobs Boom


President Obama’s campaign promises of millions of green jobs haven’t materialized. A draft report by the Government Accountability Office found that the Labor Department’s $500 million program to train people for green jobs produced just 55 percent of its targeted job placements—and most of those jobs were not in the solar or biofuels industries. But while green employment withers, brown jobs are booming: according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the oil and gas industry has added more than 162,000 jobs since 2007, a 40 percent increase. That growth rate is much higher than that of the total private sector, which has grown just 1 percent over the same time period.

The benefits of these new oil and gas jobs—which include positions drilling the wells, extracting the oil and gas, and supporting drilling operations—extend well beyond the men and women working American shale fields, the Energy Information Administration reports:

Beyond within-sector employment, oil and gas industry activity also directly supports output and employment in other domestic sectors, such as suppliers of pipe, drilling equipment, and other drilling materials. In addition, as with other forms of economic activity, there are indirect employment effects stemming from purchases made by industry and employees spending of their incomes. Because employee expenditures are closely tied to their incomes, higher paying jobs, such as those in the oil and gas sector, tend to have larger indirect effects on output and employment than lower paying ones.

The shale boom isn’t just providing American industry with cheap energy; it’s giving hundreds of thousands of Americans high-paying jobs and a path to recovery from the recent recession.

Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the Labor Department’s green jobs program would cost $500 billion, rather than $500 million. Thanks to an alert reader for the tip.

[Oil rig image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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