The new American energy boom associated with shale oil and natural gas extraction has led to increased high-paying jobs and stronger rural economies, according to a University of Montana economist who will testify before a congressional committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.

Paul Polzin, director emeritus at UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, spoke to KGVO News from outside his hotel in Washington, D.C. where he will testify before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Energy and Power on Thursday.

"The energy industry here in the U.S. has created some very high paying jobs during the same time when the rest of the economy has been very lethargic," Polzin said. "for example, from 2007 to 2013, employment in the U.S. oil and gas industry increased by 50 percent, while the rest of the economy declined by one percent."

Polzin said jobs in the energy industry are paying salaries that dwarf most other sectors of the economy.

"Nationwide, the pay in the oil and gas industry is $108,000 annually, while in all other industries it's about $48,000 annually," he said. "I hope this is the kind of background information that Congress can use when they look at energy regulation and when they try to determine what impact the new American energy revolution is having on the national economy and specifically on the North Dakota and Montana economies."

Polzin said almost all sectors of the local economies are experiencing greater-than-expected growth in employment and wages.

"In construction, for example, statewide employment grew 3.6 percent, and average worker wages increased 42 percent from 2003 to 2013," he said. "Professional, scientific and technical services – which include professionals such as lawyers, accountants, architects and computer specialists – grew 21 percent for the same time period, with average wage increases of 87 percent."

Portions of this story come from the UM Office of University Relations.

Paul Polzin, director emeritus at UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research