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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press 1.5 Million Fracking Jobs? Is Legalized Marijuana Affecting the NYT

1.5 Million Fracking Jobs? Is Legalized Marijuana Affecting the NYT

Thursday, 23 January 2014 06:28

That's what readers must be asking after seeing this piece discussing the prospects for fracking in Australia. The piece tell readers:

"Whereas about 1.5 million fracking jobs have taken place in the United States, only 2,500 have occurred in Australia, according to the Victoria report."

It's not clear where the NYT got the 1.5 million jobs figure, but it's a safe bet that it is not from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The December, 2013 jobs figure for oil and gas extraction 48,400 higher than the December 2007 number, before the impact of both fracking and the recession. The figure for mining and support activities is up by 98,400. If we assume that this is all due to fracking then the total increase in employment is 146,800, less than one-tenth of the NYT's number.

While there are undoubtedly some secondary effects from respending by workers in this sector and lower gas prices, if these are included then it would also be necessary to count the loss of jobs in the coal industry, clean energy and conservation sectors. There is no plausible story that could get from number of jobs in the sector reported by to the NYT's 1.5 million.

It also would have been useful if this piece was more specific about the environmental issues raised in Australia. In the United States, firms engaged in fracking have a special exemption from the Safe Water Drinking Act which lets them keep secret the chemicals used in fracking. The exemption was justified on the grounds that the mix of chemicals used is an industrial secret. This makes it difficult to determine if they have polluted groundwater. It would be worth knowing if the same issue has come in Australia. 



I have been informed that "fracking jobs" refers to sites that have been fracked, not people employed. My guess is that a small fraction of NYT readers would have known this. As a result, the statement may well be true, but likely would have misled the vast majority of the people who read it.

Comments (9)Add Comment
written by Last Mover, January 23, 2014 6:39

What were they smoking drinking when they wrote that, something that dulls the mind and incites violence or what? Must've been illegal.
written by dax, January 23, 2014 6:44
IMHO (and I really am very humble on this one) most macroeconomists are misestimating the impact the impact of fracking, because they (rightly) don't like it so don't want to admit it does have positive effects. However the increase in output and the decrease in natural gas prices has been really really dramatic. The chemical industry in Europe, for only one, is having a hard time competing with that in the US because the price in energy is now so skewed in favor of America. If manufacturing really is coming back to the US, it's because of fracking and fracking.

Ripping wealth out of the ground has always been the classic American way to riches. If water is contaminated and health suffers, that's a problem for another day; but today's American economy is doing better wrt to its international peers (GDP, unemployment) primarily because of fracking.

written by kharris, January 23, 2014 7:25
"Whereas about 1.5 million fracking jobs have taken place in the United States, only 2,500 have occurred in Australia, according to the Victoria report."

Somebody needs to talk to Kate about common usage. Jobs don't "take place". The probably don't "occur" all that often either. Writing for the NYT should not only carry a presumption of non-stupid, but also a presumption of decent writing.
water, water, everywhere but not a drop to frack
written by brh, January 23, 2014 9:16
Climate change in Australia and population growth has already over-stressed fresh water supplies. Fracking isn't going to happen on any large scale in Australia until either: (1) it can be done with seawater, or (2) the energy obtained by burning the recovered oil/gas is greater than the energy required to desalinate seawater.
written by Ryan, January 23, 2014 10:34
Just a second thinking though should have been enough to trigger a "huh?" I mean, roughly 1% of America's labor force employed only in fracking? Is that logical?

And why the heck are these numbers not standardized to labor forces to begin with. Cursed be the use of big numbers (and small) to drive an agenda!
Par for the course
written by Jennifer, January 23, 2014 1:08
It is extremely common for fracking employment numbers to be inflated. Undoubtedly by inflating these numbers makes it easier to milk subsides & lax regulation from state governments.


What hasn't "taken place" ...
written by Squeezed Turnip, January 23, 2014 2:18
journalism, that's what. Journalism is dead, as proven daily now by the formerly-great NYT.
written by Hans , January 23, 2014 3:39
Whether or not fracking would lead to lower gas prices is still an open question. This week in Politico, Bill Mckibben noted a study commissioned by the DOE last spring which found that exporting U.S. gas would raise our fuel’s domestic price by as much as 27%.

Just a stab in the dark...
written by Runt, January 24, 2014 12:10
... but is it possible that they are talking about the number of fracking wells in these countries, rather than the number of employees?

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.