A couple of interesting data points from the folks at Gallup:

1) Energy producing states lead Gallup's Job Creation Index, a measure of the country's top job markets. The index is based on aggregated data on companies' hiring activities the first half of 2011. Gallup says three of these, North Dakota, Oklahoma and West Virginia, have been on its list of the 10 best state job markets since 2008.

2) Gallup's employment index, measuring the percentage of U.S. adults who are unemployed (9.0 percent) and underemployed (18.2). The second number is people out of work and those who are part-time but want to work full-time.

Here's how the two are linked: the energy sector, job creation and policy decisions that would let the first one drive the second.

We know jobs and the economy are on everyone's minds. President Obama has promised an economic plan next month and, according to the Washington Post, he's thinking about a new stimulus package that could include tax cuts for companies that hire workers, new federal spending on roads and construction, and extended benefits for the long-term unemployed.

While there's no mention of "shovel-ready," you'd have to believe any project that could get going quickly and hire large numbers of new workers would get lots of attention, right?

Well, here's one: the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline, which would create 10,000 jobs "immediately," according to its builder, TransCanada. In all, the two-year construction phase would generate 20,000 jobs. According to the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), the project would add 45,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2015 and 85,000 by 2020. Cindy Schild, API's refining issues manager, talked to reporters this week:

"Had this shovel-ready project been approved a year ago, thousands of Americans, some still in the unemployment lines today, would already be at work manufacturing equipment and building the pipeline."

But the pipeline wasn't approved a year ago and still isn't. The State Department continues to weigh a decision on the 1,700-mile project that would link Canada's oil sands region with U.S. refiners. The process will hit the three-year mark next month. Those are months of lost working hours and paychecks. It's missed opportunity to have had more Americans at work, helping the broader economy. "This is the largest shovel-ready project we know of," Schild said.

Hmmm. There's that term again. Other measures have varying degrees of support from economists, but is there anything better than an employer putting out the "Help Wanted" sign to meet new demand for parts, equipment and labor?

International Brotherhood of Teamsters economist Jim Kimball joined Schild on the conference call with reporters. The union believes Keystone XL would generate jobs for 1,300 to 1,500 more of its members. "This project means jobs," Kimball said. "Big construction projects are a fast and good way to put a large number of people to work quickly."

As Schild noted, the pipeline is just one part of fully developing Canadian oil sands. Already 2,500 American companies are involved with it and more will be in the future - by 2035 generating more than 500,000 new U.S. jobs, according to CERI. "Facilitating imports of more secure supplies of oil strengthens U.S. energy security while increasing the reliability of energy supply to our economy," Schild said.

It's part of an energy stimulus that would create jobs, economic growth and tax revenues. The biggest need is for government to grant access to U.S. energy resources and let the energy sector generate growth in more states than the ones at the top of Gallup's index.