Skip to main Content

U.S. oil-industry job losses continued to grow in February

WASHINGTON — About 1,100 oil and gas workers lost their jobs in February, as low crude prices spurred energy companies to lay down rigs and lay off employees.

The 0.6 percent decline in oil and gas payrolls adds to the 1,800 jobs that were already shed in January and may just be the beginning of things to come.

Energy companies have blunted some of the pain from the plummet in crude prices — down from a high of $107.26 last June — by stashing oil in storage tanks around the country.

But available storage space is filling up, and analysts warn that once oil producers run out of room, domestic crude prices could take another hit.

Some energy executives have struck a somber tone, warning that low oil prices are here to stay — with even a modest rebound perhaps years away. Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson predicted earlier this week that prices could remain low for two years.

Before the recent declines, the oil sector had been outperforming the job market — providing its lobbyists in the nation's capital with a potent talking point as they argued for favorable tax treatment and other policies to keep their job engine running.

Now, some industry representatives have argued that the downturn in crude prices makes their favored policies — including expanding oil exports — even more essential.

Overall, the U.S. economy added 295,000 jobs in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly employment report. The number of all mining jobs — including oil and gas extraction — fell by 9,300.

The BLS revised down its estimate of the number of oil and gas extraction jobs that were lost in January from 1,900 to 1,800.

With oil companies cutting their capital budgets, contractors are paring back too. For instance, just Tuesday, Nabors Industries announced it had cut 12 percent of its 29,000-employee workforce.