The headlines say it all. Unemployment is dropping in northeast Ohio, thanks in large part to the oil and natural gas industry. Across the board, county-by-county, communities in Ohio are beginning to see a turn around.
Their secret? Those projected employment numbers from the development of Ohio’s natural resources in the Utica Shale are coming to fruition.
So what happens when energy jobs stop being theoretical and start becoming real? Just ask the folks in Carroll, Tuscarawas, Muskingum, Coshocton, Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. They’ll tell you – unemployment levels drop, communities revitalize and families prosper.
Such is the case in northeast Ohio, and here’s two things to celebrate:
1) This drive in reducing unemployment rates is moving west, out of the initial areas of shale development.
2) We are still in the very infancy of Utica Shale development, the “leasing and exploration phase”, with activity expected to significantly increase in 2015. The best is yet to come…
We can save “the best” for later, but let’s take a look at what folks are seeing today:
11.2% unemployment, November, 2011
8.5% unemployment, November, 2012
The thread tying those counties together is the booming natural gas drilling industry. Despite some skepticism and worries, the economic impact from leases worth millions of dollars to landowners and spending by experienced drilling workers coming from the Texas area already is beefing up business and county coffers, as well providing jobs in areas long known for high unemployment.
”This is just in its infancy,” said Glenn Enslen, director of economic development for Carroll County. ”I’m visited weekly by folks who talk about results similar to the boom in North Dakota. They have a half-percent unemployment rate there, and the population of the county has doubled in three years.” (Money starts to flow, 2/13/12)
11.3% Unemployment, May 2011
9.3% Unemployment, May 2012
So far, there only are three Utica permits for Coshocton County, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, but already (Coshocton County Port Authority Director Dorothy) Skowrunski has noticed an increase in trucking jobs, she said. If Utica activity continues to increase, that will mean even more jobs, not just for those working directly for oil and gas companies but for ancillary businesses such as hotels, restaurants and Laundromats as well, she said.
“They’re gearing up for fracking, and they need a variety of different kinds of people to come in and fill those jobs,” she said. “… Everyone’s going to be competing for those employees.” (County jobless rate lowest since ’08, 6/20/12)
11.4% Unemployment, May 2011
9% Unemployment, May 2012
So far, there are only three Utica drilling permits in the county, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, but Mercer already has noticed an increase in jobs hauling gravel and water, he said.
Halliburton, an oil field service company, has started hiring in Zanesville as well, Mercer said.
“I think the way they’re talking right now, it’s just the beginning,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but (the oil and gas industry) is slowly but surely coming this way. Everything we see is very positive indicators.” (Muskingum County jobless rate lowest since 2008, 6/20/12)
Mahoning Valley/Youngstown-Warren Metro (Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana Counties)
7.8% Unemployment April, 2012
7.4% Unemployment May, 2012
Recent numbers show the jobless rate for the Youngstown Warren metro area dropped to its lowest point since October of 2008. Unemployment dropped to 7.4% for May, that’s compared to 7.8% in April.
Mahoning County saw the biggest change, improving seven tenths of a percent to 7.4%. Trumbull County’s unemployment is 7.2%, the lowest rate in the Valley.
Unemployment numbers for Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana Counties are all down and below the national average.
(Jobs Ohio President Mark) Kvamme attributes the growth to eight major industries, including automotive with 50% of all auto workers employed in Ohio or within 500 miles of the border, polymer science with 9% of all U.S. industry jobs in the state, and energy with the state’s continued growth of Utica Shale development.
Kvamme said it’s still too early to tell the overall impact the Utica Shale industry will have on the state. Experts tell him once 100 wells are drilled; you know you have a well defined industry. Currently Ohio has about 30. (Unemployment down for Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, 6/25/12)
Noticing a trend here? Ohio, particularly the eastern region of the state, has long suffered from a stagnant economy.
Long before anyone of the talking heads in Washington D.C. or New York City were noticing a recession, folks here were living in one. It was unfortunate then that we were “ahead of the curve” in experiencing economic downturn. These days, however, we can continue that trend – being ahead of the curve – in our economic revitalization and a prosperous future, all thanks to the development of the geological gifts beneath our feet.
Ohio, and the country, can return to the promise of generations past. And we can – and are – doing it with the safe, responsible production of our homegrown energy resources in shale formations here, and across the country.