Oil and Gas Energize U.S. Job Market

The American job market is the best it's been in six years, according to the latest government data. The jobless rate is below 6 percent for the first time since 2008.

And in 2013, the United States became the world's top producer of oil and natural gas -- surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia.

This U.S. energy boom is creating many new jobs here in America, and it's a leading contributor to American workers' vaulting out of the unemployment line and into the middle class. Our leaders must continue to support domestic energy exploration, which is proving our nation's strongest job-growth engine.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, investments in updating U.S. energy infrastructure alone could generate an estimated $1.14 trillion in capital investments -- creating both jobs and energy savings from now until 2025.

Investments in building, maintaining and updating the oil and natural gas industry's transportation and storage infrastructure could contribute up to $120 billion to the economy per year.

And investment in the infrastructure that moves and transforms oil and gas into everyday products could support as many as 1.15 million jobs on an average annual basis -- including 830,771 jobs in pipeline construction alone.

A 2014 study from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee shows just how powerful the energy sector job engine is. In the Marcellus Shale, which rests below five Appalachian states, domestic energy production created more than 45,000 construction jobs from 2008 to 2013 -- a period when, nationally, the U.S. construction market was mired in a deep depression.

In those five years, construction workers in the Marcellus Shale region logged over 72 million hours of direct and indirect construction labor on projects related to the region's natural gas development.

That's nearly 65-percent more hours of labor than the 45 million hours worked on all oil- and gas-related construction projects between 2000 and 2007.

This is work that would not have occurred but for natural gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale geological footprint.

By comparison, just 28,089 construction jobs were created between 2000 and 2007 -- before the development of the Marcellus Shale began in earnest.

Construction jobs typically pay wages and fringe benefits roughly three times the federal minimum wage. The economic impact of the 72 million work hours created through Marcellus Shale development is $2.7 billion.

And there can be more success stories like this if only our government leaders would seriously address the permitting and regulatory process that all too often creates bottlenecks to the approval of critical energy infrastructure investments.

On May 21, I testified before the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives in support of legislation that would provide the necessary framework needed to create energy corridors on federal lands to bring natural gas from the well to the consumer. It would also hold agencies accountable for the permitting process, while making sure they do not fall behind and create a bottleneck.

American domestic energy development and production is a significant factor in fueling a sustained economic recovery for our nation. It also enables North America's Building Trades Unions to provide structured career-training opportunities in the skilled trades -- through our world-class apprenticeship education infrastructure -- to historically neglected populations, including urban young people, women, communities of color and our nation's military veterans.

The United States energy boom is lifting up our nation's workforce, reducing utility bills for American families, and providing hope and opportunity for long-neglected communities. The family-sustaining jobs that the boom is creating are exactly the type of jobs we need to rebuild the great American middle class.

Sean McGarvey is President of North America's Building Trades Unions.