Coal Miner Jobs Are Vanishing At An Astounding Rate

Coal mine employment in the U.S. has dropped nearly 20% in the past two years as the industry comes under intense competition from natural gas, according to data from SNL energy.

From a recent high of about 94,000 in Q4 2011, mining jobs have fallen to about 77,000. Last year, natural gas matched coal in providing for U.S. energy needs for the first time on record. Many coal producers have been forced to idle mines or even declare bankruptcy. Recent price weaknesses in export markets have also weighed. The EIA says coal production may see a slight rebound in 2014, but it will be short lived.

Stricter EPA regulations have also been cited.

“There’s a gross inconsistency, in our view, of this administration’s insistence that it wants to create high-wage jobs and more of them, and the reality that their policies are having on the employment marketplace,” Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, told SNL. “You’re essentially condemning a lot of unemployed people to a much lower standard of living since in these regions there are no readily available jobs that can offer salaries that compete with a coal mine. It’s a pretty dark picture, particularly in that region.”

Here’s the chart:

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