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W.Va. gas, oil extraction jobs seeing increase in wages

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The number of oil and gas extraction jobs in West Virginia is up significantly, and the jobs are paying more than they used to, according to a WorkForce West Virginia report.

The number of oil and gas extraction jobs in West Virginia grew by 9.5 percent from 2008 to 2011, said Jeffrey Green, director of research, information and analysis for WorkForce West Virginia.

Those workers are making an average $8,100 more than they did in 2008, bumping the average annual wages to $70,082.

The reason is simple, Green told lawmakers Monday: the recent push for natural gas, particularly from Marcellus Shale.

"Though both industry sectors include oil and gas in their definition of activities, there can be no doubt the recent upswing in activity within the two can only be attributed to measurable activity in the Marcellus Shale gas field," states the report Green presented.

He said the growth was seen primarily in industries that prepare sites and build the infrastructure necessary to extract the resources.

In 2008 there were 1,276 people responsible for building pipelines, refineries and storage tanks, the report states. In 2011 the figure grew to 1,950, with averages wages increasing from $60,329 to $71,723.

Similar spikes were seen among businesses that survey or excavate the drilling sites. Those jobs jumped from 2,782 in 2008 to 3,793 in 2011, the report states. Average salaries climbed more than 28 percent, from more than $46,600 to nearly $60,000.   

Green believes growth will continue for at least the next three years.

"For now, it's growing, and it's growing very strong," he said after the meeting. "The preliminary numbers we have for 2012, which I haven't fully collected yet, show even more of an increase than what the report shows. The trend appears to be continuing very strongly."

The job market will stabilize a bit once the infrastructure is in place, Green said. However, infrastructure work likely will be needed elsewhere in the state since most of the Marcellus Shale work to date has taken place in north central West Virginia.

WorkForce West Virginia calls the north central region workforce investment area 6. It includes Monongalia, Marion, Preston, Taylor, Harrison, Doddridge, Taylor, Gilmer, Lewis, Braxton, Upshur, Barbour, Tucker and Randolph counties.

"Of the 10,580 total employees in the state engaged in some form of oil and gas extraction, 4,275 or 40 percent of the workforce labor (is) in this area," the report states.

That's an increase of more than 1,000 jobs in the last four years, according to the report.

As coal production declines, Green expects more demand for natural gas available from Marcellus Shale.

It's a trend seen nationally. A study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy projects that by 2015 the development of shale gas and other unconventional energy sources will be responsible for 2.5 million jobs.

WorkForce West Virginia is collaborating with the other members of the state Workforce Planning Council -- including the state Department of Education - on ways to create more jobs, according to Green's report.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1. ;;;


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