Too dusty? Too noisy? Too ugly? Not worth it? Sand mining might be all of the above (the debate continues), but one thing without a doubt is that sand mining has boomed in many hotspots across the U.S. and it is creating jobs. And money.
Using Analyst, EMSI’s labor market tool, let’s explore the sand rush a bit. Industrial sand mining (NAICS 212322) grew 24% from 2000 to 2008, but really took off after the recession. The industry spiked nearly 40% from 2010 to 2012, dipped a slight 8% in 2013, and is anticipated to recover those losses this year. Total jobs in the U.S. numbered more than 4,500 in 2013, projected to reach almost 5,000 in 2014. Average annual wages per job are $78,504.
So, why sand? The short answer is because we want oil — and other fossil fuels. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the process that pipes oil and gas up out of the ground, may sound water heavy, but the truth is it requires another ingredient just as key: sand. Fracking injects a mixture of sand, water, and chemicals deep underground at high pressure to break open fractures in shale formations, where it is the sand grains that hold open the tiny pathways and allow oil and gas to flow up to the surface.
Geography of Sand Mining
Sand mining has a real presence (100 jobs or more) in roughly a dozen states, some of which have seen solid post-recession growth while others continue to decline. Wisconsin, known for that white sand ideal for fracking, leads with the greatest number of new jobs (419), followed by Texas (301), Illinois (151), and Minnesota (111). Far ahead in terms of percent growth, however, is Louisiana, where sand mining has increased 650%, growing from a mere 10 jobs to 75 over the past three years. Nebraska has also seen strong percent growth (164%). Sand mining has declined the most dramatically in Maryland (-60 jobs, -65%), Virginia (-46 jobs, -61%), and California (-46 jobs, -37%).
Such wildly different growth across the states shows that the industry’s strong post-recession growth is due to its strong success in comparatively few locations. So where, more specifically, is sand mining making so much noise?
The maps below shows the U.S. metropolitan areas where sand mining jobs are most heavily clustered (largely in the upper Midwest):
Filtering for all MSAs with at least 11 sand mining jobs in 2013, we’ve determined the 20 MSAs with the strongest growth and/or concentration. Sand mining has added the most jobs in Eau Claire, Wis., where the industry, springing up out of thin air following the recession, currently has 117 jobs. Other areas of strong growth are Ottawa-Peru, Ill. (153 new jobs), Dallas (118 new jobs), and Minneapolis-St. Paul (160 new jobs).
In other MSAs, sand mining is more impressive for its percent growth: Menomonie, Wis. (330%), Boise, Idaho (191%), Fond du Lac, Wis. (133%), and Milwaukee (125%).
Sand mining’s concentration, measured by location quotient (LQ), shows where the industry is particularly compelling. The higher the concentration, the more unique sand mining is for the area. Sand mining’s concentration is strongest in Ottawa-Peru, Ill., where it has an LQ of 275.8, meaning that sand mining jobs are 275 times as concentrated in the region than the national average. Sand mining is also distinctive in Batesville, Ariz. (97.5), Spirit Lake, Iowa (73.4, down from 79.5 in 2010), and Menomonie, Wis. (74.8).
|MSA||2010 Jobs||2013 Jobs||Change||% Change||2010 National LQ||2013 National LQ||2013 Avg. Earnings Per Job|
|Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||375||493||118||31%||4.90||4.75||$78,217|
|Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI||208||368||160||77%||4.61||6.14||$86,612|
|Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||72||143||71||99%||1.06||1.54||$70,672|
|Eau Claire, WI||0||117||117||--||0.00||44.07||$87,086|
|Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV||98||108||10||10%||4.64||3.87||$56,098|
|Fond du Lac, WI||30||70||40||133%||25.38||44.85||$111,973|
|St. Louis, MO-IL||43||57||14||33%||1.29||1.32||$65,540|
|Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI||16||36||20||125%||0.78||1.37||$74,943|
|Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA||27||33||6||22%||4.54||4.46||$69,329|
|Boise City, ID||11||32||21||191%||1.63||3.54||$38,253|
|Spirit Lake, IA||18||22||4||22%||79.5||73.37||$47,769|
Like most industries with high LQ, sand mining is export-oriented, important to its various regions for exporting goods and bringing in new money as opposed to circulating dollars already in the area. In Ottawa-Peru, Ill., for instance, sand mining is the sixth-highest industry for exports with $203.7 million in 2012. (The highest industry is nuclear electric power generation with $604 million.) In Eau Claire, sand mining ranks 60th with $27 million, but remember: the industry sprang from zero to 117 jobs in three years and is in a predominantly agricultural region where industries like dry, condensed, and evaporated dairy product manufacturing ($317 million) take the lead. Similar stories take place in big metro areas like Houston, Dallas, and Las Vegas because sand mining, though packing a punch, is still a small industry competing with dozens of industries many times its size.
Photo by Lukas Keapproth, wisconsinwatch.org/2012/08/19/sand-boom-creates-jobs.
Data and analysis for this post comes EMSI, which offers the most comprehensive, current, and granular labor market data available. To explore this data for your region, email Josh Wright. Follow us on Twitter @DesktopEcon.