Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mr. Windle gets a haircut

Not exactly lost, but not much noticed either is the big loss of jobs in mining and logging industry sector in the latest dump of Pennsylvania jobs data.  How big a loss?  Total jobs in the mining and logging sector dropped 1,000 in May day compared to just a month prior.  Is that a big drop?  Basically the single biggest month over month loss since 1990 with the sole exception of June 1993 when the jobs count went down 1,200.  The time series of the monthly delta looks like this:

But is even June 1993 comparable to the recent downward blip?  June 1993 was the first full month of a major multi-state coal strike that would stretch through the end of the year.  The big job loss that month likely reflects a lot of those jobs as workers temporarily were on strike.  I am pretty sure the current job loss is not the result of any strike anywhere.

So of course the loss still is only a small fraction of the big run up in jobs in the same sector since 2008.  Still, if this is more than a one-off kind of month, and this rate of loss continues then there is something important going on.  What is curious is that the job loss does not really show up in any mass layoff disclosed to the state this year.

To be sure, the net job loss is across the whole industry sector which is not limited to natural gas. Coal in particular is a big part of the state's mining industry and coal firms are laying off.  Still, the lack of a mass layoff notice that correlates with the 1,000 job loss makes me think it is spread out across a larger number of smaller firms which may be the vast support sector for the shale industry. But we will be able to parse that much better in a few months, so hold that thought.  For now we just know the net job loss is pretty big in total.

What does it mean?  As always, take monthly data with a grain of salt.  If this industry job count bounces back next month, or just holds it own, then maybe it was a one time reset of jobs that may have expanded too quickly in recent years.  But if next month loses another big chunk of jobs then the question will be how far will this go and where will the job counts settle. Someone may need to do a study of what career decisions some of those workers made anticipating shale jobs long into the future.

This all comes on the state's methodological reset of the jobs impact of shale development in Pennsylvania.  Until recently, the state counted jobs, but the new methodology announced last week the number of shale jobs in Pennsylvania went from well over 200K to just about 30K instantaneously. if you ever wanted a case study in how methodology is important to measurement, something nobody ever really wants to talk about.  Everyone always just wants the number.

Maybe it is time to restart those annual economic impact reports that turned out to not be annual for very long.

At least one big potential market for natural gas took a big hit last week as well as Honda, the only company in the US to manufacture a natural gas fueled consumer auto, announced that it would cease production of its Civic GX.  There were supposed to be more and more private drivers with natural gas vehicles.  I actually believe there were more folks driving personal natgas vehicles in the city of Pittsburgh a decade or two ago compared to today, but that may be my one anecdotal observation. But I'm sure the fleet uses for the station in the Strip District continue unabated?



Blogger Vannevar said...

Do you refer to Travis Windle?

or do you refer to Mark Windle?


Tuesday, June 23, 2015 7:21:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I thought he was a teacher?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015 9:39:00 PM  
Anonymous DBR96A said...

"Mr. Windle" was the name of a song performed by Arrested Development back in the 1990s. :P

Wednesday, June 24, 2015 9:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm confused - isn't the drop in mining jobs due to job losses in COAL mining? 2015 is when the MATS regulations go into effect, and nearly every Appalachian mine is experiencing layoffs. Add weak demand from metcoal (for steel) and it's a REALLY bad year for mining. I don't think shale has a lot to do with this.

Thursday, June 25, 2015 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Yes, I addressed that a bit. Coal operations are typically big places and mass layoffs usually show up in the mass layoff disclosures required by law. I see few of those in the most recent data and this is all about data over the most recent month.

But it will be possible to parse it out a bit more when the quarterly payroll data catches up. I do agree coal employment losses are ongoing in general,but just from my anecdotal observations of friends and colleagues laid off from shale-related jobs in just the most recent months it certainly is not all a coal story.

Thursday, June 25, 2015 10:40:00 PM  
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