NAMPA, Idaho—The staccato of nail guns echoes across a cavernous building here as workers piece together manufactured houses with easy-to-clean linoleum floors and rugged interiors for muddy oil-field workers.
There is no oil and gas production in Idaho, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. energy boom has bypassed this bedroom community west of Boise. Fleetwood Homes of Idaho, a subsidiary of Cavco Industries Inc., has increased production by 25% since last fall at its Nampa factory, hiring 40 workers and adding hours for employees. It is building the extra-insulated “Dakota” model for shipment 1,000 miles east to the Bakken oil field in North Dakota.
Were it not for the new demand for oil-field housing, factory manager Jeff Chrisman says he would be handing out furloughs, not overtime. Instead, “We’ve been able to bring back people that we hated losing a couple of years ago,” he says.
An energy boom is revving up the U.S. economy. The use of new drilling techniques to tap oil and gas in shale rocks far underground helped add about 158,500 new oil and gas jobs over the past five years, and economists think it has created even more jobs in companies supplying the energy industry and in the broader service industry. U.S. oil production is rising for the first time in decades. Natural gas has become so plentiful that prices recently plunged to a 10-year low.
The economic benefits of rising energy production are spreading far beyond the traditional oil patch, to Ohio and Pennsylvania, Nebraska and New York, North Carolina and Idaho. Truck drivers from pretty much anywhere can find work related to the surging energy business. Private-equity firms completed $24.8 billion of energy deals of all types last year, up from $8.5 billion in 2010, according to data tracker Preqin. Manufacturing plants are returning to the U.S. to take advantage of cheap natural gas, spurring major investments in petrochemical and steel production in the Gulf Coast and Midwest....