Reports: Shale only part of job picture

WARREN – About 1,300 workers last year found employment in Ohio’s Utica and Marcellus Shale natural gas industry, bringing the number of workers filling Ohio shale drilling-related jobs to 178,280 in fourth quarter of 2012, according to a recent report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

But experts say while the industry’s growth will continue statewide, the biggest job growth in coming years for the 18-county northeastern Ohio region will be not in energy, but rather in healthcare, business and finance, according to information from Team NEO, a northeast Ohio economic development and marketing group.

That prediction comes despite the fact that most of the $7.6 billion investment and 7,670 new jobs created since 2008 in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys have come in the oil and gas industry, according to information provided by the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber.

Still, officials like Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber president and CEO Tom Humphries have frequently repeated beliefs that diversity is key in growing and maintaining a healthy economy.

“We can’t be a one-industry town,” Humphries said at a chamber function earlier this year. It’s not the only time he and other economic experts have made the point.

Jobless figures for the Youngstown-Warren market, released last week, indicate the area’s economic recovery continues very slowly.

With a civilian workforce size of 213,300 the same in July as it was a year ago, the jobless rate for Trumbull and Mahoning counties improved only slightly to 8.6 percent from 8.8 percent in July 2012.

But if growth continues as predicted, Team NEO says by 2022, more people will be working in northeast Ohio’s 18 counties that include those in the Mahoning Valley, than any time in the past 20 years.

“Jobs are projected to grow by 15,000 by 2022, surpassing the job declines of the last decade,” Tom Waltermire, CEO of Team NEO, said when the report was released earlier this year.

Occupations with the largest growth, according to the Team NEO study, are in healthcare, with 45,000 new jobs projected between 2012 and 2022. Business and finance was projected to grow by another 22,000 jobs in the same time frame.

Team NEO did not, however, ignore growth being triggered by the natural gas and oil industry, pointing out that more than 100 Ohio wells were permitted in just the first quarter of 2013, signaling the coming increase in drilling activity.

A third study, released last week by the Marcellus Shale Coalition that surveyed 101 companies and 13,099 Marcellus and Utica Shale workers, showed about 4,000 new workers are expected to be hired this year, most from Ohio and southwestern Pennsylvania.

Those workers mostly will fill positions in engineering and construction, operations and maintenance, administration and environmental health and safety.

The challenges in filling those positions, the survey says, is in finding qualified talent with the necessary knowledge and experience and who is willing to relocate.

That unwillingness to move may lend itself to the fact that, of industry new hires made in 2012, 96 percent came from the home shale states including Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Ohio workers in the core shale-related industry, like pipeline construction or well drilling, are highly paid, at an annual average of $76,643. Ancillary shale-related industry employment, like freight trucking or environmental consulting, are paid on average $58,908, according to the ODJFS study.

By comparison, Ohio’s average industrial wage is $44,242.