The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 28, 2013

W.Va. oil, gas job report lacks worker residency

An annual report on West Virginia oil and gas employment lacks required data on the residency of workers.

The report released last week by the Workforce West Virginia Investment Council shows statewide oil and gas industry employment jumped 20 percent from 2011 to 2012, increasing by 2,123 jobs to total employment of 12,666.

But 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.

Department of Commerce spokeswoman Chelsea Ruby told the Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/18tXOBN ) that WorkForce West Virginia tried to obtain the residency data from the Division of Labor and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. While the labor agency has some data, Ruby said that “it’s incidental, and would represent an accurate sample.”

She said that the insurance commissioner doesn’t collect the data.

“The only department who we believe might have it is Revenue, and they are prohibited by law from sharing it,” Ruby told the newspaper.

“Unfortunately, there are still some details we are unable to provide,” she said.

The law, approved during a special session in late 2011, requires the Department of Commerce to submit the annual report by Nov. 1 through 2016.

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

Some lawmakers had proposed requiring companies to provide the state with new information about employee residency. But the newspaper said that language was removed during negotiations between Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration and industry lobbyists. The bill that was passed instead required the study by the Department of Commerce.

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

The report noted that 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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