Jobless Recovery Looms For White-Collar US Oil Workers

Jobless Recovery Looms For White-Collar US Oil Workers
Job prospects remain bleak even as oil executives cautiously plot production and budget increases.


SPRING, Texas, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Elizabeth Huber lost her job inspecting oilfield pipes nearly 20 months ago and her prospects remain bleak even as oil executives cautiously plot production and budget increases.

Despite crude trading 75 percent above its February lows and energy companies shifting focus from survival to recovery, white-collar jobs in the sector remain as scarce as during the depths of the two-year oil price rout.

Like many laid-off energy sector specialists, Huber, 58, a metallurgical engineer, hopes this is just another cyclical downturn that will pass.

Yet dozens of interviews with industry veterans, company executives and recruiters suggest this time might be different.

Recruiters warn that many jobs may not return even when the tentative recovery gains momentum. Job seekers, especially those who have been through several ups and downs and are now nearing retirement age, fear they may get sidelined for good.

Labor statistics seem to justify those fears. Over the past 25 years energy industry employment has closely tracked ups and downs in crude prices.

This year, though, the sector continues to shed jobs even as prices rallied from around $26 per barrel to over $50 in June and have mostly held above $40 since.

To be sure, at this early stage doubts linger whether the recovery will hold after the slump that wiped out more than 200,000 jobs in the U.S. oil industry and related sectors. The longer such uncertainty persists, the harder it will be for specialists like Huber to return.

With severance and unemployment money long gone, Huber said she might have no choice but settle for any job that pays the bills.

"I can't afford to wait another year," she said at a recent meeting of Energy Job Search Team, a Houston networking event that draws hundreds each week. "I'm stretching every penny."

Expertise Lost

For the industry, that could spell a loss of expertise that will be hard to replace if and when the next boom comes.

"You're seeing so many older people and experienced people be let go. The experienced people are out," said Carlos Pineda, 59, a drilling completions engineer laid off from Chevron Corp in January 2016. He said this downturn definitely feels much worse than in 2008 and even in the 1980s.

Even as executives of leading producers, such as EOG Resources Inc or Pioneer Natural Resources Co have been talking about production and budget increases, that does not translate into more job offers.


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John | Sep. 22, 2016
As someone who rode the coat tails Of the boom I went from a derrick man on a workover rig to wellsite manager in 3 years time and worked as the Wsm for 2 years. I got laid off in February and I for one cant wait for the industry to recover. I dedicated all that time and effort into being as proficient as I could be but in the end it did not matter. I wish I could say Im having an easy time find work but Im not as most employers truly cant grasp how unique the skill sets learned in the oil industry are. I just hope that despite this along with the downturn Ill be able to get back what I love doing by next year.

Jon | Sep. 19, 2016
I remember the last couple oil busts and we lost many of the best and experienced people as they retired or moved on. A few came back but we all have gotten older and now as we are near retirement most of us will not be coming back. We have planned our lives to live our sunset years getting to know family that we have spent too little time with having sacrifice much time in the oil patch. The younger guys will likely have to be retrained as they have been out of the game for a couple years now.I dont blame the companies but it rather naive for some like Mr Mahesh Puducheri to believe that droves of experienced aged staff while suddenly show up for work when oil prices improve in a few years.

Jim McAtee | Sep. 18, 2016
Even though people leave the industry my rear! Profound changes have hit the oil and gas industry. When the oil and gas industry does come around to hiring, if the new wages that are laid out are supposed to attract workers you will be in for a rude awaking.

John | Sep. 16, 2016
After 37 years in the business there are few surprises. It will boom again, some day and we will repeat this same pattern. While the business remains the same the people have changed. We have lost the soul of the business. Try finding a salaried person that will go 38 hrs straight and only ask for 4 hrs sleep today. All dinosaurs die but replacing them is going to be much harder

Victor Straus | Sep. 16, 2016
Mr Mahesh Puducheri is full of it like all HR people for service Co. Yes they will get some one to fill a pair of boots but that is about it. Operators are starting to get fed up with this any hand in red coveralls is worth the price we pay for him. Hailb laid off a lot of experience it will hurt them. Schlum. Did the same. Time will tell but I have seen it to many times.

Jacob | Sep. 14, 2016
This is going to be verrry bad for the oilfield! People like me; who were just starting out in this industry when it took a nosedive, will be the experienced ones, albeit minimal actual experience (6 months - 1 year). The rest will be greenhorns (which is precisely what I am at this point, truthfully); in essence, the blind leading the blind! Then youll have those not so good hands who stick around; the ones who are poor teachers, cut corners which lead to serious accidents and fatalities, and are just the huge turd in the pile of crap. This is going to lead to a very dangerous, and potentially deadly combination - possibly costing oil companies thousands in wrongful death suites, etc. The upper echelon of the oilfield industry needs to stop kidding themselves, and look past the end of their noses. Three months out is typical for these folks; and frankly, when it comes to this scenario being set up, its going to be devastating for them financially and physically. They are pooping in their own nest and refuse to see it. Its already a job full of inherent risk; but with this ramping up, itll be ten times more deadly with all the inexperienced, and crap employees at the helm! God help those of us!

Laura | Sep. 12, 2016
Thanks for that arrogant announcement, Mahesh. Its that attitude that makes it hard for us to find jobs outside the industry. Maybe money isnt everything, but employers are afraid that all of us ex-oil folks think just like you, Mahesh, and they dont want to risk hiring us. Why put time and money into training us just to have us leave when you wave a big paycheck? Its hard to convince them Im not like that, in fact, so far I still havent.

clive Banister | Sep. 12, 2016
- No surprises there from Mahesh Puducheri - VP Halliburton HR- No matter how often or how bad we continue to screw people they keep coming back for the money! Really?

Mike | Sep. 12, 2016
We old timers have been through this several times. Companies lay off highly experienced workers even as they worry how they are going to get these same people back when things pick up. If I can find a new career path in another industry, I'm out of the oilfield for good.


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