The latest shale drilling boom is driving unemployment to the lowest levels in years in many of the areas that encompass the Permian Basin, a 17-county region that spans West Texas and eastern New Mexico, according to data compiled by the Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission, a cross-border coalition geared toward diversifying the region’s economy. Reeves and Ward Counties, in the heart of a Permian sub-basin called the Delaware, are seeing unprecedented growth in oil and gas development; Winkler County, also in the Delaware, has become an active sand mining hub, driven by demand from hydraulic fracturing, which pumps vast amounts of water and sand under high pressure to crack shale rock and release oil and gas. In February, Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission examined the workforce in the Permian region and found that its unemployment rate is at 2.9 percent, much lower than the Texas rate of 4 […]