As part of our State of the County Economy Series, the Shale Gas Knowledge Hub will feature data and information from the counties of southwest Pennsylvania each week. This week, data from Indiana County is presented.
According to data from the US Census Bureau, Indiana County lost 3,045 residents or 4 percent of its population between 2010 and 2018 (the most recent year data was available). As Indiana is the home of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, population fluctuation occurs yearly with the coming and going of the student population, but Census records still indicate a net loss in total residents.
Compared to Pennsylvania overall, Indiana County has a slightly young population, with the median age at 39.8 years, just above the state median of 40.7. The slightly lower median age could be attributed to the student population, but Census data in college and university cities can be less accurate given the nature of data collection and their yearly population changes. Families in Indiana County earn less than the typical family in the Commonwealth. In 2018, the median household income for Indiana County was $46,877 compared to $56,951 for the Commonwealth. Approximately 19.9 percent of individuals in Indiana County fall below the poverty line.
While median household income is lower in Indiana County than in other parts of Pennsylvania, those engaged in unconventional natural gas development earn much more. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been an increase in those working in the oil and gas industry in the county. In 2016, 618 people were employed in the industry. This number grew to 721 in 2018. Average annual earnings for a worker engaged in major oil and gas services (NAICS Code 213112), which includes preparing wells for production, maintaining and enhancing the output of producing wells, and exploring wells, was $63,340 in 2018. Data was not available for other areas of oil and gas production. Though earning less than others engaged in the industry in other counties, those working in oil and gas in Indiana still average significantly more than those in other industries.
Furthermore, wages in major oil and gas services has grown by about 11 percent over the past several years. Workers in the shale gas industry earned $57,038 per year on average in 2016 before increasing to $63,340 in 2018.
Indiana’s economy is largely supported by the higher education and medical industries. However, the oil and gas industry has clearly improved wages in the area. Given the current state of economic affairs, Indiana must consider the role of other industries in its economic makeup.