The energy industry, historically, has the most jobs, the lowest unemployment rate, the highest salaries and biggest pay increases.  That's why young people looking for a college major with the best job opportunities would do well to get a degree in one of the many energy related fields.

A new report from the Labor Department shows the unemployment rates of more than 500 career fields in the United States, and it’s no surprise which fields have the lowest rates – energy, health care and management.

Natural gas and oil booms in Texas, Pennsylvania and North Dakota have fueled thousands of jobs, and engineers are in high demand as oil and natural gas companies try to unlock energy from tight shale plays.

The recruitment firm NES Global Talent says there will be a growing demand for skilled work labors in the oil and natural gas industry in 2012.

Oil and gas jobs are commanding the highest pay hikes, too, according to the PayScale Index. A report released this week found that the U.S. wages rose about 1 percent across the board in 2011, but rose fastest in the “mining, oil and gas exploration” industry.

Workers in that field were paid about 2.6 percent more in the fourth quarter of 2011 than in the same period in 2010.

Boosted by that industry, Houston claims the fastest growing salaries among the 20 metropolitan areas tracked, rising 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter year-over-year.

via Fuel Fix » Energy industry has lowest unemployment rates, highest salary hikes.

The oil and gas industry has been begging for people for the past 20 years.  Thousands of oil and gas employees retired or were laid off in the oil bust of the 1980s, and the industry has struggled ever since to replace them, especially on offshore rigs, where a college degree isn't required.

People with degrees related to oil and gas exploration practically have jobs waiting for them when they graduate.  Some companies even offer signing bonuses to attract young petroleum graduates.

Here's a link to the full jobless rates report from the Labor Department

2011 Jobs Snapshot: Good News for Architects, Cabinet Makers - Real Time Economics - WSJ.