Midland: Weathering the Downturn in Crude Oil Prices

So far, there have been few outward signs of a change, according to a public sector worker in Midland. One way to gauge the level of economic activity in a municipality is the amount of vehicular traffic through town, and traffic has not been getting lighter, City of Midland’s Assistant Transportation Manager, Eric Johnson, said.

Another marker is the number of job applications for public sector work, and here, too, there has been little change, he said.

“In the division I’m in – transportation – as people leave the oil field, we generally see a significant increase in applications for employment. The overall requirements are similar for both jobs – a commercial driver’s license, being drug-free, etc. While we have had a small increase in applications and hiring, we are nowhere near fully staffed,” Johnson said.

Historically, the highs and lows in the energy industry have not usually affected Midland in the way that one might think, he added.

“As far as ‘boom or bust’ goes in Midland, our general pattern has been that when we ‘boom,’ we significantly increase in population, and when we ‘bust’ – and we don’t use that word – we level off with a minimal – or no – decline in population. That has been the trend time and time again, except for one ‘bust’ in the 1960s, which caused a significant population decline.”

The drop in crude oil prices has yet to manifest itself in hiring in industries outside of oil and gas, Johnson noted.

A slowdown is coming in the Permian Basin, however, as well as in the Eagle Ford and other shale formations, according to Karr Ingham, economist and author of the Texas Petro Index.


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