After a massive recession and years of sluggish growth, there is finally some evidence that the U.S. economy is now growing at a steady pace. The most recent jobs report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was particularly positive, giving business owners, consumers and – perhaps most of all – job seekers, a reason to be optimistic about how their prospects may change in the near future.
In their employment situation update for February, BLS analysts estimated that the economy added 236,000 payroll positions during the month. Meanwhile, the official unemployment rate continued a gradual decline, settling at 7.7 percent.
Oil and gas development supports jobs in numerous industries
Although there were many different areas where growth was observed, the impact of the energy sector is impossible to ignore. Direct employment in oil and gas extraction has risen by roughly 10,000 in the last year, while utilities have increased their collective workforce by about 6,000. Beyond these figures, the expansion of domestic energy development has also driven growth in other areas. For instance, increasing levels of oil and gas production have created demand for more trucking and construction workers, as well as engineers and other technical professionals.
In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, W. David Montgomery, senior vice president of New York-based NERA Economic Consulting, asserted that this pattern of energy-driven growth seems likely to continue in the coming years.
"We have new opportunities for producing both oil and natural gas that are backing out imports and making a substantial contribution to the improved health of the economy," Montgomery said.
Growth increasingly centered on oil and gas from unconventional sources
According to research from IHS, the development of unconventional plays, such as shale formations, is playing an increasingly central role in driving the growth of not just the oil and gas industry, but the economy as a whole. In 2012, the firm's researchers estimated that unconventional energy projects directly employed about 360,000 people, while another 537,000 worked as suppliers for the sub-sector. Furthermore, as many as 850,000 people were believed to be employed in the provision of services for those two groups.
Looking at the big picture, that means approximately 1.7 million people are drawing their paychecks from the proceeds of unconventional energy development. And, this number is expected to continue increasing.
IHS forecasted that the number of jobs linked to unconventional projects will increase by nearly 50 percent in the next few years, reaching 2.5 million by the end of 2015. By 2020, that figure is projected to hit 3 million. This should make it clear to all observers that oil and gas development has a major role to play in powering America's economic growth in the coming years.
Advanced technological solutions will be key to creating new economic opportunities
Although the sector is expected to continue exhibiting strong growth, the path to a prosperous future is not free of obstacles. In fact, operators of oil and gas wells face physical, financial and political challenges on a daily basis.
Some of these issues can be overcome through the use of modern oil production equipment. For instance, installing hydraulic jet pumps can help producers increase output while ensuring operations are conducted with the utmost efficiency.
One reason why many companies are turning to jet pumps over other artificial lift equipment is their versatility. A jet pump can be used to maintain production from wells in which damaged casing precludes the use of other solutions.