Who Are the Oil, Gas Industry's Departed Workers?

Who Are the Oil, Gas Industry's Departed Workers?
Rigzone's worker exodus survey reveals the impact the oil and gas downturn has on the current and future workforce.

Just as the tally on global oil and gas layoffs due to the industry downturn surpassed the 440,000 mark, Rigzone was hard at work developing a plan to reach those who had left the industry. With oil prices plummeting to historic lows in February 2016 and drilling activity stalled, many oil and gas professionals were exiting the industry – both voluntarily and involuntarily.

Results from Rigzone’s most recent global survey address the exodus of oil and gas workers – determining why they left, where they went and whether or not they will return. It also provides a pulse check on how they’re feeling about the industry overall.

The survey garnered more than 1,500 responses from nearly 100 countries. Almost one-quarter of respondents (23 percent) came from the United States, 11 percent from the UK and about 8 percent from India.

Experience level among respondents was varied, with the largest chunk (32 percent) having more than 20 years of experience. More than half of respondents (60 percent) have at least 10 years of professional oil and gas experience. Males dominated as they accounted for more than 90 percent of respondents. This may not be a direct indicator of, but certainly serves as a parallel to the underrepresentation of women in the industry as a whole. And the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers made up the largest portion of respondents: ages 36-45 (26 percent); ages 46-54 (21 percent) and ages 55 and older (21 percent).     

Downturn’s Aftermath in Workforce 

As one delves into the survey results, it’s evident that the industry’s “new normal” spurred by a sharp decline in crude oil prices meant a huge loss of talent in the workforce. According to the survey, 38 percent of respondents are currently unemployed, having most recently being employed in oil and gas. This is just a macrocosm for an industry whose global workforce has had hundreds of thousands of layoffs since late 2015.

One-third of respondents said they were still employed in the oil and gas industry, while 18 percent stated they were currently employed in another industry. About 3 percent of respondents are retired.

The survey findings also reveal how the downturn affected the mindset of workers. Of the respondents who are still employed in the oil and gas industry, more than half (54 percent) said they have considered leaving due to the downturn. It’s likely the stress of doing more with less in addition to the uncertainty of job security probably contributed to their decision.

Of the 38 percent of respondents who said they were unemployed, having most recently worked in oil and gas, more than half of them (52 percent) lost their jobs due to layoffs or workforce reductions; while one quarter (24 percent) lost their job due to company restructuring. Seven percent stated their reasons for no longer being employed were related to contract or project-based work.       

Be sure to check out the next feature based on findings from Rigzone’s worker exodus survey in which we’ll explore the industries that departed oil and gas workers migrated to as well as hear some of those workers’ stories and experiences.  

Methodology: Rigzone conducted the worker exodus survey using online survey tool SurveyMonkey. The survey was executed via email to Rigzone’s member database as well as the company’s social media platforms from May 11 through May 18 and garnered more than 1,500 responses from nearly 100 countries.   


Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.

M A Steiner  |  November 23, 2017
Although a downturn this serious would expect to see significant numbers of layoffs, what is not often said is the role Wall Street has in who goes or stays. Investors want - and demand - their premium (dividends). Given that, pressure is placed on publically-held oilfield service companies to mercilessly cut jobs to meet investors demands for dividends. Now, a sort-of upswing is in progress, and companies like Weatherford or looking to replace people that were mercilessly slashed in 2015. But not TOO many. Wall Street still calls the shots - and the patch is held captive, like it or not.
Kevin Martyn  |  August 07, 2017
I also have 35+ years on and off within Oil and Gas between previous downturns. The main issue i have faced even in the middle east is that at 62 i have been told to my face that i am too old. On top of that I have lost count of the number of CVs that i have sent out and also changed. I am now working off a single page CV but have had zero response. In my opinion the number that have lost there jobs in oil and gas is well over 4 million workers
Syed  |  August 06, 2017
So what is the definition of workers? Roughnecks? Engineers? Field or office employees? Degreed or high school level? Everyone talks about jobs and workers but such generalized surveys will be much more useful to actual jobseekers, and people in general, if they knew what kind of jobs and workers you are talking about.
Charles Gustavino  |  August 06, 2017
Hi Guys, Lets face it it is an end to an era, coming off the back of unprecented growth. To this reader the end of megga projects in oil is here. Perhaps gas offers some respite as some countries such as the UK are signalling the end to hydrocarbon powered cars by 2040, electricity will need to generated to pick up the energy shortfall.
Thomas  |  August 05, 2017
Ive seen plenty of professionals of all experience levels laid off over the last 3 years, but now Im seeing the Gen Xers starting to leave due to a perceived lack of a future in the industry.
20yrOG  |  August 05, 2017
The givernment has no incentive to help O&G worker who are still unemployed after 12, 18, or 24 months. Unemployment is one of the lowest in this country we have ever seen. Never mind most jobs are low wage jobs. Most industries do not want to hire, or eveninterview, O&G workers since they believe these workers will leave the moment things pick up. Meanwhile many of us (the lucky ones) make do with jobs that pay half or even less of what we used to earn. So we dont show up on the government statistics anymore. Never mind these are bridge jobs and many of us not unemployed are underemployed
Mike  |  August 05, 2017
The Devil is in the details. After long years of hardship and sacrifice when helping your employers through the lean times of the other slow periods (yes, this has happened before), your reward is to be cast off by those who also cry loyalty, first, above all else! The you find that you are highly skilled, with loads of training and experience, but cant find a job because the new, diverse oil field has a phobia about gray hair, they merely count you as retired. The really funny part is when articles begin to appear about a shortage of qualified workers in O&G.
Gordon J Jamieson  |  August 05, 2017
I started in the UK North Sea on what was then known as Texaco Tartan Alpha, January 1980. 30+ Years on, and having been just about everywhere else in the Northern UK Sector. The bean counters are more than willing to save costs by a spreadsheet dismissal of numbers. BUT a great ..wailing, gnashing of teeth, rending of hair... when we are suddenly no longer available - to be back on the same spreadsheet. Where are we? WE have started our own businesses, we are working programmers of computer games, Hairdressers, we work in the construction industry, we are dead & buried.. What we are NOT doing is waiting for you. My general experience in the O&G Industry is of people who just DO THINGS! We do not wait for tea and sympathy. My 23 year old nephew has just entered the nuclear industry in Scotland after a long, hard, interview process. He is one of the lucky one ( If hard work still counts as lucky these days ). Hydrocarbon energy is not going to go away. How we manage it will change.
Ian  |  August 04, 2017
At best, these results & surveys are dubious as a sharp pencil can be made to say anything the user wants it to say
Ian  |  August 04, 2017
Enforced retirement as a result of no work sucks, especially after about 40 years in the industry
Mark French  |  August 04, 2017
1,500 responses from 100 countries seems hardly enough to create any kind of opinion. You can probably get that many responses from Texas alone.
James Drouin  |  August 04, 2017
The survey response rate vs the total estimated layoffs was very small, but extrapolating from the response rate only, 59.5% of layoffs were the industrys most experienced personnel.
Mason  |  August 04, 2017
If engineers and designers are not needed, yet the government continues to encourage immigration of scientists from overseas, why are we encouraging STEM in schools if there is no work for the graduates? So far the US Administration is ignoring O&G and leaving it to the market to straighten itself out, but we (American citizens, not immigrants) continue to be without jobs. Some folks, for 2 years now. I have not seen any help from the government for us, although we have families, mortgages and taxes to pay also, and no one is cutting us any slack. The bad part is there is no end in sight for this market downturn.
Greg  |  August 04, 2017
Sucks balls, out of work over a year and cant even get an interview. Im sure they are receiving thousands of CVs for most openings.
Jason  |  August 04, 2017
Interesting figures, however I question the breadth of respondents. E.g. primarily white-collar native english-speakers.
Jim  |  August 03, 2017
Good work, a heckve of a lot better information than SPE and SPEs current President are spouting off about how many have retired. Mostly those with good pensions I suspect