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Marcellus Shale catalyzing job growth, study finds

Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling has had a measurable effect on Pennsylvania’s economy and could generate more than 200,000 additional jobs by 2020, according to a study released on Monday by Wells Fargo economists.

Pennsylvania has added 130,000 jobs since employment bottomed out in February 2010, one-third of them in education and health care, said the report by Wells Fargo Securities’ economics group. The state’s economy is growing faster than it did at any point during the past decade, it said.

Although the natural resources and mining sector employs fewer than 1 percent of the state’s workforce, it accounted for 8 percent of recent job growth, the study said.

Employment in the 14 counties where drilling is most prevalent is already above its pre-recession peak, a result the study ties to the economic impact of natural gas drilling. For every percentage point of employment growth in shale counties, employment in Pennsylvania’s other counties rises by 0.27 percent, the study found.

The result was surprising at first, said Wells Fargo economist and study co-author Jay Bryson, but the model fits the data and there is considerable anecdotal evidence corroborating the conclusions.

The study calculated optimistic, pessimistic and midpoint scenarios for Pennsylvania employment through 2020. The midpoint scenario predicts employment growth of 570,000 jobs, of which 200,000 can be attributed to the shale industry and its spillover effects.

Previous researchers have disagreed about Marcellus Shale job growth, the study notes, with some finding considerable impact and others much less. Their estimates have played into political debates about the best way to respond to the industry’s rapid development.

Tim Stuhldreher

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