Over the past 16 years, workforce participation has fallen faster in the United States than in almost any other developed nation.
This is a deeply disturbing trend. However, there's a sector of the American economy perfectly positioned to reverse it: the fossil fuel industry.
But instead of embracing oil and gas firms, legislators and regulators are smothering them, killing thousands of jobs.
This needs to stop. With the right policies, America's energy companies can generate enough positions to bring millions of Americans back into the workforce.
Energy companies have already proven to be an extraordinary engine of job creation. Between 2007 and 2012, total industry jobs grew by 41 percent. Over that same time, all other private sector employment grew by only 1 percent.
Today, oil and gas support nearly 10 million jobs nationwide.
Left unencumbered, the energy industry could continue this breakneck expansion well into the future. America's oil and gas companies could generate up to 2 million positions over the next two decades, according to a report from consulting firm IHS.
These jobs will be exactly what our economy needs. They're solid, engaging and well-paid, with an average salary that's $50,000 higher than the average for the overall economy.
Better still, nearly 60 percent of these jobs will be blue-collar. Today, many Americans without a college degree are locked out of the job market.
They lack skills demanded by tech, healthcare, and other fast-growing industries. Energy firms provide a foothold for them to get back into the workforce.
The biggest beneficiaries of energy job growth may be African Americans and Hispanics, roughly a quarter of whom live below the poverty line. Of the 1.9 million new oil and gas jobs expected by 2035, black and Hispanic Americans will fill about 38 percent. Another 17 percent will go to women.
But these jobs won't come to fruition if lawmakers capitulate to radical environmentalists.
Consider activist efforts to block the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would've transported crude oil from Canada to the United States.
After years of protests from activists and lawmakers, President Obama nixed the pipeline, costing the country's construction workers 42,000 new jobs.
Likewise, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently bowed to pressure from environmental groups and rejected a permit for the Constitution Pipeline, which would've transferred natural gas between five states and created thousands of jobs.
In Oregon, a natural gas pipeline meant to create 9,500 positions was put on the back-burner after receiving widespread criticism from activists.
Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior recently about-faced on offshore exploration. In 2015, the administration announced it would open up federal territories off the Atlantic coast to drilling operations.
But the department recently reversed its position, again preventing the creation of potentially hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
This war needs to come to a halt. Lawmakers are denying millions of Americans a steady paycheck.
Government should stop bending to the demands of radicals and allow the oil and gas industry to generate the jobs our economy still desperately needs, producing the energy we have in this nation in abundance.
Dan Kish is a senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research.