West Virginia Del Joshua Higginbotham, a Republican, praised the number of jobs created by the gas and oil industry in West Virginia during an interview on January 23 with West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
"Tens of thousands of jobs have been created in West Virginia by the natural gas and oil industries," Higginbotham said.
West Virginia Del. Joshua Higginbotham
Have so many jobs been created by the West Virginia industry? The answer is more complicated than we initially expected, so much so that we don't give a Truth-O-Meter rating for its explanation. Instead, we will look at a few different ways to measure this statistic, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
The American Petroleum Institute study
We didn't hear the Higginbotham office back for this article, but we did get a response from Jennifer Cox, the manager of daycare at the Oil and Natural Gas Association in West Virginia.
Cox has referred us to data from & # 39; The impact of the oil and natural gas industry on the US economy in 2015 & # 39 ;, a 2017 report, issued by the American Petroleum Institute, a national trading group.
According to this report, West Virginia had 70,874 jobs in the natural gas and oil industries in 2015.
The figure in the report contains three classes of jobs. The state had 38,211 direct jobs in the oil and natural gas industry. These jobs are "primarily engaged in drilling, well maintenance, exploration, production, collection, processing, marketing, transportation, storage of oil and / or natural gas distribution," Cox said.
In addition, the state had 9,309 indirect jobs, as a result of which the required goods or services were supplied to the industry.
Finally, the sector created 23,353 jobs, supported by spending from people in the oil and natural gas industry.
It is important to note that this data comes from the industry itself, rather than from an independent arbitrator.
It is also important to note that this data is a few years old. In a sector that is subject to expansions and contractions based on the state of the international energy market, a data loop that is so long can make a difference. For example, another report from the American Petroleum Institute for West Virginia, published two years earlier than the report referred to above, found a greater number of jobs for oil and gas in West Virginia – 80,400 direct, indirect and induced jobs.
Even if you limit the number of jobs, the most recent API report provides Higginbotham's description of & # 39; tens of thousands of jobs & # 39; because it quotes 38,211 direct jobs.
However, Brian Lego, assistant researcher-professor at the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University, told West Virginia PolitiFact that the figures might change if the methodology were changed.
So we kept looking. And it turned out that Lego was right.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data
We looked in addition to the official employment database of the federal government, collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This showed a vastly smaller pool of oil and gas lanes in West Virginia.
The oil and gas extraction category had 2238 employees in West Virginia in September 2018, the most recent month available. There were 2,786 extra employees in support activities for oil and gas activities.
The total for these two categories is around 5,000 – which is a whole lot less than what API has found. What gives?
In discussions with experts in the field of labor data, we found a number of explanations for the difference.
A big one, says API spokeswoman Sabrina Fang, is that the BLS data exclude contractors and sole traders and partnerships. Such schemes are "a particularly large factor in the oil and gas extraction sector," she said. (Other economists agreed.)
Experts also said that professional services – such as lawyers revising lease agreements for drilling – would not necessarily be recorded in the BLS data.
The BLS-tracks support categories "combine employment with multiple extraction industries and there is no way to know how much of that bucket should be allocated to coal, oil and gas or other industries," said Jed Kolko, chief economist at the job site Indeed. com.
A third difference is that API & # 39; s study included different industry sectors that are not included in the pure oil and gas extraction activities that are recorded in the BLS data. The report lists categories such as oil and gas pipeline construction, petroleum refining, different types of asphalt production and gas stations.
The inclusion of gas stations can go the furthest to explain the differences between API & # 39; s and BLS & # 39; s.
The API report did not specify how many of the oil and gas lanes in West Virginia come from gas stations, but in the nationwide data from the report, gas stations accounted for about a third of all the jobs that API had in the oil and gas sector. So including gas station assignments helps explain why the API number is so much larger.
The American report on energy and employment
There is a third study that we can look at, and the numbers are somewhere in the middle of what BLS and API have found.
It is the US energy and employment report that was most recently published in 2019 by the Energy Futures Initiative, a "clean energy" think tank led by former Obama energy minister, Ernest Moniz, along with the non-partisan national association of official government officials.
This study is three years more recent than the API study and also uses survey methods to best match the number of contractors for the oil and gas sector, as well as how much time they spend comparing oil and gas efforts to work for other sectors.
This report found 4,647 jobs in West Virginia in the oil sector and another 5,816 in the natural gas sector. David Foster, who co-drafted the report for the group, told PolitiFact West Virginia that he would recommend adding about 5,000 pipeline distribution sites in the state to measure the oil and gas sector most accurately.
This amounts to more than 15,000 jobs – more than BLS found, but less than API. This number does not include some of the sectors that the API contains, such as asphalt operations and gas stations. Foster said he had no objection to API including gas stations in total, but his group did not dig up that data.
So, by using the US Energy and Employment Report total as a middle ground and adding gas stations to it, the total gets around 20,000 oil and gas lanes in West Virginia – the minimum required for Higginbotham's tens of thousands of jobs "to be accurate.
Yet the specialists we interviewed were reluctant to choose a single best number for West Virginia in oil and gas, suggesting that a range is probably more appropriate.