Did you hear the joke about how fracking creates jobs?

We heard it, too. We heard it from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We heard it from the fracking industry. We heard it from the press.

Well here comes a punchline that’s darker than a fracker’s heart: In northeastern Ohio, where a fracking boom kicked off 2011, there was no more jobs growth last year than there was in the state’s unfracked western and southern regions.

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That’s the conclusion of a new report [PDF] published by Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs. The report was not peer-reviewed.

The study found that overall spending in counties with the richest shale reserves increased by 21.1 percent in 2012, compared with a 6.4 percent increase in counties where no fracking is underway. The more shale buried beneath a county, the more money is likely to be spent there in the era of fracking, according to the study’s findings.

But that economic bounce did not translate to jobs growth. In shale-rich counties, employment grew by 1.4 percent between 2011 and 2012. In fracker-free counties, employment grew by 1.3 percent.

Ohio jobs growth re fracking

Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs

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The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says that employment in well drilling, pipeline construction, and similar work was up last year. So what’s going on? It’s impossible to tell from the report, but it has been speculated that fracking could be killing jobs in other sectors, such as tourism and farming. From a Midwest Energy News report published in January:

Tish O’Dell, co-founder of the group Mothers Against Drilling in Our Neighborhoods (MADION) in the Cleveland suburb of Broadview Heights, said the number of jobs created by fracking should be measured against the possible impacts on industries including farming, dairies and tourism.

“If you were going to do a really serious study you would look at these things,” she said. “If water is contaminated and fish die, what are the fishermen going to do? If you have parks where people go for peace and quiet, what happens when you turn it into an industrial landscape? If you have an organic dairy and the soil is polluted, what does that mean? These are all valid questions.”

Meanwhile, leaders in the state have started lamenting the lack of fracking jobs going to Ohioans. Gov. John Kasich (R) brought the issue up a few months ago, The Columbus Dispatch reported:

“You could have a situation where we are not getting the jobs, [the oil and gas companies are] taking the resources, and all their profits and they’re heading home,” Kasich said. “That is not acceptable to me. Now, we don’t have the conclusive evidence that this is happening yet, but I want you all to know, and I want the companies to know that this is an extremely serious matter, and we expect them to be responsive to the people of this state.”

Kasich made these remarks Wednesday during, of all things, a ceremony in his office honoring the 2012 Ohio State football team, with some of the Buckeyes’ players standing behind him. Perhaps as a result, little attention was paid to Kasich’s warning at the time. He has routinely said shale drilling should lead to jobs for Ohioans and not “foreigners,” meaning people from other states.

The lack of jobs growth for Ohioans living on fracked (and now polluted) land appears to be yet another sad case of communities getting sucker punched after selling out to fossil fuel companies. There’s your punchline.