There is now evidence to contradict the widely held belief that there is a shortage of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workers.

The Economic Policy Institute reported this week that only half of STEM graduates get STEM jobs. These statistics primarily apply to information technology (IT) and engineering graduates. Additional evidence for this finding is the fact that salaries in these areas have not increased since the late-1990s.

These statistics are not consistent with jobs information for the oil and natural gas industry where salaries are climbing rapidly. The April 2012 AAPG Explorer reported that salaries for petroleum geologists rose 15 percent over three years.

However, the STEM employment numbers may have an impact on legislation to change the number of STEM guest-worker permits, which will be part of upcoming immigration legislation. Proponents of increasing high-tech, guest-workers visas claim that industry is hindered by the shortage of qualified workers. Opponents of increases in guest workers note that below-average guest worker salaries push down all salaries.

The petroleum industry could be impacted by decisions to increase or maintain the flow of guest workers. Because the petroleum industry is a relatively small part of the U.S. economy, its worker needs will not influence legislation. Oil and gas extraction employed about 159,000 in 2010 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is a little over 1 percent of the U.S. non-farm workforce (135 million).

Last 5 posts by Edie Allison

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