Out-of-state workers fill oil & gas industry jobs, report suggests

An annual report on West Virginia oil and gas employment that lacks the required data on the residency of workers was released last week by the Workforce West Virginia Investment Council. The report, published in the Register-Herald, showed statewide oil and gas industry employment had jumped 20 percent from 2011 to 2012, increasing by 2,123 jobs to a total employment of 12,666. The report did not say how many jobs were created for West Virginia residents and non-residents, or the number of employees living in West Virginia. A 2011 state law requires a review of this information by the Department of Commerce (DOC).

DOC spokeswoman Chelsea Ruby told the press Workforce West Virginia had tried to obtain the residency data from the Division of Labor and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. While the labor agency had some data, Ruby said that “it’s incidental, and would represent an accurate sample.” The insurance commissioner does not collect the data, she said. “The only department which we believe might have it is Revenue, and they are prohibited by law from sharing it,” Ruby said.

Organized labor groups have said companies were bringing in out-of-state workers to fill too many new jobs.

Some lawmakers had proposed requiring companies to provide the state with new information about employee residency. But during a special session in late 2011, the law was approved with that language removed during negotiations between Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration and industry lobbyists. Instead the bill that was passed only requires the DOC to submit an annual report by Nov. 1 through 2016.

“The Legislature directed the state to include where these workers were from and they apparently failed to do so two years in a row. It remains a critical issue,” Ruby said.

Most of the oil and gas industry employment growth is in the Northern Panhandle and north-central West Virginia, where the bulk of the Marcellus Shale activity is taking place.

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