More Americans than expected filed for unemployment benefits last week. It’s a sign, unfortunately, that the labor market is struggling to gain momentum. But, despite stubbornly high – currently near 10 percent – unemployment figures, the oil and natural gas sector is suddenly adding jobs in droves. Energy firms, engineering firms, even construction companies – all with work related to the production of oil and natural gas industry gathered in Houston earlier this month hoping to hire would-be workers for position on new projects from Texas to Canada to Iraq. Operations managers for companies like NES Global and a Norwegian company called Aker Solutions say hiring has increased due to renewed activity in the Gulf of Mexico and increased international work in places like Brazil and Africa. Some recruiters and headhunters say higher oil prices have also given some companies a bit of confidence to green light some projects that had been on hold during the recession. It is difficult to say exactly how many jobs are available. The Houston Chronicle recently reported that nearly 12,500 vacancies were posted at Oilcareers.com, a popular energy jobs listing Web site. Down south in parts of Texas, however, the help wanted signs are not just for jobs in the oil industry. Due, to the sudden growth in drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale play, it seems everyone is hiring these days. According to a recent story in the Houston Chronicle, drug-testing companies are finding themselves short-handed trying to keep up with the constant line of potential oilfield workers coming through the door for their preliminary workup. And, restaurants and hotels are hiring as well to make sure the oil patch workers are taken care of while they live and work nearby. In fact, a recent economic study shows drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale generated 6,800 fulltime jobs and supported another 12,660. The drilling and production provided $21.5 billion in economic output, and paid $823 million in salaries.