WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. legislators need to adopt policies to unlock more oil and natural gas areas to explorers to put more people back to work, an energy trade group said.
The American Petroleum Institute, the industry's lobbying group, commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to survey job creation in the U.S. energy sector.
The survey found the oil and natural gas sector supported 9.8 million jobs in 2011, an increase of more than 600,000 reported in a 2009 PricewaterhouseCoopers assessment for API.
Job prospects have been a source of contention in the U.S. energy debate.
API and its supporters say President Obama is working to thwart energy advances. The administration says oil and natural gas production are at record highs.
API President Jack Gerard said the energy sector supports 8 percent of the U.S. economy. He attributed the gains to U.S. oil and natural gas production increases brought on by new technologies like hydraulic fracturing.
"We need Congress and the administration to unlock additional opportunities by expanding access to domestic energy resources, speeding up permitting and ending the broken ethanol mandate," he said in a statement Thursday. "By doing so, we will create even more American jobs, grow our economy, protect consumers and take full advantage of our nation's vast energy resource."
The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday the number of people applying for unemployment benefits declined by 19,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 326,000, the lowest number in more than five years.