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Committee report shows jobs in oil, gas have increased with Marcellus boom

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Statewide employment in the oil and gas industries has increased nearly 10 percent since 2008 -- while average wages have increased nearly 19 percent -- driven by the boom in Marcellus Shale drilling, a report released Wednesday to the legislative Joint Committee on Government and Finance shows.

The report, from WorkForce West Virginia, shows that employment in oil and gas drilling and related industries grew 9.5 percent to 10,580.

Average wages have increased even more sharply, going from $61,898 in 2008 to $70,082, according to the report.

"The overall effect on specific industries in West Virginia due to activity within [the] Marcellus Shale gas field is becoming more evident," the report states.

The impact is concentrated in north-central West Virginia, which accounts for 40 percent of the 10,580 jobs.

"The region has increased its total employment by more than 1,000 over the four-year analysis, representing an increase of approximately 31 percent," the report finds.

It noted that employment in sectors supporting oil and gas operations in that region has increased even more sharply, with 1,106 new jobs.

The report did not analyze percentages of workers that are state residents.

However, the Marcellus Shale boom has also affected oil and gas industry employment in southeastern West Virginia, which has seen a 39 percent drop in jobs during the period, while oil and gas production in the Eastern Panhandle is nominal, accounting for only 27 jobs.

Also Wednesday, WorkForce West Virginia acting executive director Russell Fry told the committee that the state unemployment compensation trust fund would finish the calendar year with a balance of $127.55 million.

During 2012, the fund will have taken in $247.05 million, and paid out unemployment benefits totaling $225.3 million.

Asked if the fund is in good shape, Fry said, "It is right now."

House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, pointed out that West Virginia was one of a handful of states that did not have to borrow funds from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits during the height of the recession.

The state's unemployment trust fund reached a low balance of $38.89 million in March 2011, but has since rebounded.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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