WHEELING - Those looking for jobs in the oil and natural gas industries need not wait for Royal Dutch Shell, Odebrecht or another company to build an ethane cracker in the Marcellus or Utica shale regions.
According to WorkForce West Virginia statistics, the Mountain State's unemployment rate continues to drop - especially in the Northern Panhandle counties with plenty of natural gas industry activity.
"They need mechanics to work on trucks, welders, pipefitters and other jobs," said R. Dennis Xander, past president of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia. "And this doesn't even count all the related jobs that will be created in all of the full restaurants, hotels and grocery stores."
The state's jobless rate now stands at 5.6 percent, which is down from 6.8 percent in October 2012.
Ohio County - home to drilling by Chesapeake Energy and pipelining by Appalachia Midstream Services and Dominion Transmission - has a jobless rate lower than the state average at 5.2 percent. This is down from 6.4 percent last year.
Marshall County - featuring Williams Energy natural gas processing plants, the Blue Racer processing plant, as well as drilling from companies such as Chesapeake, Chevron, Gastar Exploration and Noble Energy - saw its jobless rate fall from 7.6 percent last year to 6.4 percent.
Brooke County, which features Chesapeake drilling operations and Appalachia Midstream pipelining, saw the jobless rate decline from 9.1 percent last year to 7 percent.
Serving as the base for large employers ArcelorMittal Weirton and Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, in addition to Chesapeake drilling, Hancock County's jobless rate dropped from 8.7 percent last year to 7.7 percent.
Heavily drilled Wetzel County has active operations with Chesapeake, Stone Energy, Magnum Hunter, HG Energy and others. The counties unemployment rate dropped from 9.7 percent last year to 8.8 percent.
Tyler County features Magnum Hunter drilling and pipelining operations, as well as drilling from companies such as Antero Resources. Residents saw their unemployment rate drop from 8.2 percent in 2012 to 6.9 percent.
"Ask yourself this: What's better for the Northern Panhandle's economy? Gambling or oil and gas?" said Xander regarding the economic impact.
Webster County in southeastern West Virginia now has the state's highest unemployment rate, as 10.6 percent of workers there are without jobs. Monongalia County - home to West Virginia University in Morgantown, as well as plenty of drilling from companies such as Chesapeake and Consol Energy - continues to have the state's lowest jobless number at 3.4 percent.