Falling oil prices are giving the U.S. job market a shot in the arm. But if you work in an oil field, your job prospects might not be so bright.
Buoyed by strong consumer spending, the U.S. economy surged ahead at a 5 percent annual rate in the third quarter, according to the latest government estimates. Rising consumer confidence and a stronger job market helped propel growth, helped along by the ongoing drop in gasoline prices that is putting cash back in the pockets of American households.
But falling oil prices aren't helping the economies of states that are major oil producers. For starters, those states rely on taxes from oil revenue to help fund their annual budgets. Many had been counting on oil selling for north of $100 a barrel next year, which means falling crude prices will force higher taxes, spending cuts or both.
The lower prices will also hurt the profits of domestic U.S. producers and, if oil prices keep falling, could hurt local banks that have loans outstanding to those companies. So far, say analysts, the impact hasn't been widespread. A lot depends on how long oil prices remain at deeply depressed levels.
There also seems to be little evidence that oil producers are scaling back on drilling and developing new fields, at least based on weekly rig counts. But as CNBC's Eric Chemi points out, producers have been slow to respond to falling prices in the past. With little certainty about the outlook for next year, some producers may be gambling that prices will recover and their oilfield bets will pay off. Even when prices are stable, oil production has never been a risk-free way to make a profit.
If oil prices flatten out at low levels, though, some production projects that are no longer profitable will likely be shuttered, forcing layoffs. And based on occupational data collected by the BLS, some oil-producing states are more vulnerable to the employment hit than others.
(For this chart, our list includes BLS industry classifications directly related to oil production, including petroleum engineers, oilfield derrick operators, rotary drill operators, service unit operators, roustabouts, and a classification called "Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators, and gaugers."