Total US coal production rose in the second quarter of 2022 compared to a year earlier, and a sustained rise in demand for the fuel used in domestic and power generation allowed companies to increase their worker head counts, S&P Global Market Intelligence reports.
On a year-over-year basis, average employment rose 11.3% in the second quarter, and coal volumes improved about 2.0%, according to the latest S&P Global Market Intelligence data and analysis.
“The average number of employees in the U.S. coal sector has gradually increased over the last four quarters,” the report reads. Second-quarter employment rose 1.5% to 43,358 compared to the previous quarter, even though coal production volumes fell by 2.5% to 145.5 million tons.”
“The extraordinary pricing centered in [European Union} markets has improved cash flows to U.S. coal producers, allowing them to reduce a backlog in hiring even if logistics constraints in rail and seaborne have limited their ability to increase volumes much,” Steve Piper, director for energy research at S&P Global Commodity Insights, said in an email.
Coal exports from the U.S. increased in the second quarter as demand and prices remained at high levels amid a global energy crisis, which supports further production increases, he added.
“The demand setup for 2023 looks good, as economic spreads to EU coal and to U.S. domestic natural gas, which is also under heavy demand pressure from EU markets, set the conditions for volume growth,” Piper said. “These factors likely support hiring, even with the longer-term outlook being less certain.”
In the second quarter, total output from the Powder River Basin declined 2.3% year over year to 60.8 Mt, with production declining 6.8% quarterly. However, S&P said, employment is trending upward, with a 1.9% increase quarterly and 15.8% yearly to 5,043 employees.
Total production from Northern Appalachia coal operations totaled 22.5 Mt, a 3.7% drop yearly and 2.3% decline quarterly, but employment during the three months ended June 30 was 9,784, increasing 6.5% year over year and 2.4% quarter over quarter, S&P reports.
In Central Appalachia, production increased 7.1% year over year to 15.0 Mt, a quarterly rise of 3.1%. Employment jumped to 13,506, a 1.5% change from 13,313 in the first quarter and a 17.6% rise from the year-ago quarter figure of 11,482.
“Meanwhile, output from Illinois Basin miners totaled 20.8 Mt, a 12.7% increase from 18.4 Mt in the prior year quarter and a 9.5% rise from 19.0 Mt in the first quarter,” the report reads. “The number of workers in the region totaled 5,961, a quarter-over-quarter increase of 0.9% from 5,907 and a 10.1% yearly increase from 5,414.”