A U.S. oil and gas drilling boom fueled by hydraulic fracturing technology added about 725,000 jobs nationwide between 2005 and 2012, blunting the impact of the financial crisis, according to a study released on Friday. The findings could play into a debate over so-called fracking, in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into underground shale formations to produce oil and gas reserves that were otherwise inaccessible.
“Supporters and opponents of fracking have been debating over the degree to which fracking is benefiting the economy versus affecting the health and environment of our communities,” Dartmouth College said in a press release outlining the research, which was led by some of its professors. Drilling activity has declined over the past several months due to sliding oil and gas prices.
Researchers conducting the National Bureau of Economic Research study analyzed data from over 3,000 U.S. counties and determined that within 100 miles of new production, $1 million of extracted oil and gas generated $243,000 in wages, $117,000 in royalties and 2.49 jobs.
“Aggregating to the national level we conclude that aggregate employment rose by 725,000 jobs due to fracking, causing a reduction in the U.S. unemployment rate of 0.5 percent during the Great Recession,” according to the study. It said the study did not take into account the impact of falling energy prices on consumers.
The fracking boom has contributed to a glut in domestic oil and gas supplies in recent years that has caused energy markets to tumble, a boon for businesses that are heavy consumers of fuels and electricity, but a bane for drillers and producers who have been forced to trim back operations. The study also looked at the effects of the fracking boom on crime and found no evidence of increases.