Setting the Record Straight on Marcellus Shale Jobs in Pennsylvania

A blog post from Stephen Herzenberg, originally published on Third and State.

The Keystone Research Center made The Wall Street Journal last week in a story on what the media is characterizing as a “political tussle” over the number of Pennsylvania jobs created in Marcellus Shale-related industries.

On Tuesday, we released a brief showing that less than 10,000 Pennsylvania jobs have been created in Marcellus industries since the end of 2007. The brief corrected recent press reports that confused “new hires” with “new jobs” and made the inaccurate claim that 48,000 new Marcellus jobs had been created. "New hires" and "new jobs" are not the same because most new hires replace people who quit, were fired, or retired.

In the same period that Marcellus industries reported 48,000 new hires (the fourth quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2011), there were 2.8 million “new hires” in all Pennsylvania industries — but only 85,467 jobs created. To measure job growth you have to use — big surprise — a jobs data base. That’s what we did.

Within hours of releasing our policy brief, the Marcellus Shale Coalition came out with a statement that:

  • Called our brief a “politically-timed attack.” (The timing actually reflected the time it took us to write the brief once the press misinterpretations began to multiply.)
  • Said “the rhetoric of opponents of Pennsylvania’s clean and abundant energy supply is simply not squaring with reality.”
  • Said we were “attempting to trivialize [people’s] new employment opportunities simply to fulfill a political agenda” and “demean[ing] the very people who are employed." (The Marcellus Shale Coalition lectures the Keystone Research Center on the need to respect working people — “Excellent.” “Party on Wayne.”)
  • And included a couple dozen Coalition talking points that contained information that was either in our brief or not relevant to the job creation issue that we addressed.

The statement from the Marcellus Shale Coalition did not challenge the central point of our brief because it couldn’t. (The Coalition knows full well that new hires are not new jobs, as a close reading of a recent Coalition presentation and press release makes clear.)

The next day we got attacked by the state Republican Party Executive Director. He added his own pejorative labels (e.g., “extreme, liberal point of view”) before repeating the mistaken claim that “the Marcellus industry has created 48,000 jobs.” Say it often enough and it becomes true; is that the operative theory here?

Late last Wednesday, we issued a statement responding to these attack. By Friday, The Associated Press had reported on it, and the story was picked up by the Journal.

We think this exchange provides important insight into some differences between the Marcellus Shale Coalition and the Keystone Research Center. We recognize there are differences in values and policy positions among groups that seek to influence public policy, but nonetheless believe in political discourse based on logic, facts, and, when possible, a search for common ground. We think the Coalition’s behavior reveals a different perspective.

Given the heat that the gas industry is now taking nationally for distorting reality, the Coalition may want to change its behavior.

When the Coalition is ready to engage in civil discourse and work to jointly craft Pennsylvania policies that deliver profitability for the gas industry, more jobs and long-term prosperity for Pennsylvanians, and protection for the state’s water supplies and environment, it should let us know.

You must be doing something right

If everyone is yelling at you, you must be making some pretty good points. I like the fact that you point out that they never really quibble about your fundamental argument.

And, ummm.... so WHAT if you timed making the point at the time the point was relevant? If people are talking about Marcellus Shale that probably is the right time to release a paper on Marcellus jobs. Do it when people's interest are piqued. It doesn't make it any less true.

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