The number of fossil fuel jobs dropped by more than 15 percent nationally between March and July during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new analysis found.
The study, done by BW Research Partnership, found that an estimated 118,000 jobs in the gas, oil, and coal industries were lost, not counting workers who were furloughed.
Even though the energy sector saw some stabilization in June and July, fossil fuel employment dropped more than 1 percent. “Demand for energy has fallen sharply and petroleum and other fuel storage is near capacity as Americans stay home and out of their cars, and factories close due to physical isolation and decreased demand. As a result, energy companies continued furloughs and layoffs, which has increased unemployment filings among fossil fuel workers,” the memorandum said.
The job losses have not been evenly distributed over the different sectors. Gas jobs declined 14 percent, or 36,400, since March, while oil lost the most jobs and power generation remained mostly flat.
Texas had the largest number of layoffs, losing 39,900 jobs, or about 14 percent, of its fossil fuel workforce. Pennsylvania lost more than a quarter of its fossil fuel workforce, shedding 8,900 jobs.
BW Research Partnership also recently produced two reports about Pennsylvania’s energy industry. The 2020 Pennsylvania Energy and Employment Report looked at pre-pandemic statewide energy employment from 2017 to 2019. It takes in a broad range of energy-related jobs, including some not considered “traditional energy” jobs.
Transportation is included “due to the energy consumption of production as well as end-use vehicle emissions. Similarly, energy efficiency plays a pivotal role in reducing energy consumption and is thus included.” Jobs involving manufacture and maintenance of motor vehicles are included, as are jobs related to energy-efficient construction and manufacturing.
The report found that while there was an increase in energy jobs in 2019, many of those jobs are in the motor vehicles and energy efficiency categories. At the same time, natural gas employment declined by 7.4 percent to 23,738, even as production increased. “Overall production and the siting and drilling of new wells is projected to slow down in Pennsylvania over 2020, as the increased supply has driven down prices from $8 per million Btu a decade ago to $2 per million Btu today,” the report states.
Natural gas has supplanted coal as the top source of power generation, but renewable energy sources continue to make up an increasing share. Indeed, the state’s Clean Energy Industry Report found that between 2017 and 2019, clean energy jobs crew by 8.7 percent, compared to the statewide average job growth of 1.9 percent. As the mix of generation sources changes, and concerns about carbon emissions grow, a continuing rise in clean energy jobs can be expected.