This post starts out with a video. Watch it and then read what I say next.
Call it propaganda from oil company shills, but the fact remains: North Dakota leads the nation with the lowest unemployment rate – even better than Washington, D.C. They have 3% unemployment, which is 0.9% better than the next state on the list (Nebraska) and a full 3.8% better than Maryland’s number. The BLS also notes that “the largest over-the-year percentage increase in employment occurred in North Dakota (+6.8 percent).”
I will caution that fracking isn’t a panacea for all unemployment ills – Pennsylvania could eventually add over 200,000 jobs related to the energy industry by decade’s end but still has a higher overall unemployment rate than Maryland does. Part of the reason for North Dakota’s success is that it really had few other job producers before energy companies invested heavily into the Bakken play; as one observer notes in the video it wasn’t all that long ago that young people left the area because no jobs were available.
And note that not all the jobs are directly related to energy extraction, with one entrepreneur featured in the video opening her own diner and others getting work from the surge in construction. Obviously that industry will mature as supply catches up to demand but there will be other needs which will eventually have to be addressed in a growing area.
Maryland has a small piece of the Marcellus Shale formation; unfortunately the state seems to be dragging its feet on allowing its exploitation. The two counties which would stand to most benefit, though – Allegany and Garrett – have unemployment rates just about the state average as of April, with both coming in just above 7 percent. Granted, we aren’t talking about a large population center – the two counties combined are just a shade larger than Wicomico County by itself and only a small fraction of Maryland’s overall population. But imagine the impact of 2,000 new jobs in that area – I’m not saying that would necessarily be the case with fracking but that’s certainly in the realm of possibility.
It can’t hurt, can it? Moreover, cheap and abundant energy can bring industry – unlike far-off North Dakota, the western edge of Maryland is within a day’s drive from a number of large markets because of its reasonable highway access. And their success would make life just a little easier on us in the rest of the state as Annapolis can have another source of income besides raising taxes. A rising tide lifts all boats.
Why should the barren, frigid wasteland of North Dakota have all the energy fun? Let’s open Maryland up for business.