At McElfish's Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, office, resumes are stacking up for junior line bosses and field managers, suggesting that exploration and production firms are asking higher-ups to take greater responsibility for running well sites, she said. Coiled tubing companies that provide equipment for hydraulic fracturing have also been sidelined as drillers frack fewer new wells and focus on their most productive assets.
Energy Recruiting Services, founded four years ago, has been able to weather the downturn in part because it focuses primarily on providing drivers. McElfish said she has seen little change in the number of entrepreneurs forming owner-operator businesses, which exploration and production firms hire to haul water, oil and gas, and equipment rather than investing in their own fleets.
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The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects the nation's production to begin falling this month, but new supply has held steady above 9 million barrels per day.
"The oil is still there. They might not be drilling more wells, but the oil is still coming out, and that means work," McElfish said.
The same holds true for petroleum engineers, said Jeff Bush, president of Dallas-based CSI Recruiting. While exploration and production engineers have been hit as new drilling drops off, reservoir engineers have been relatively insulated because they specialize in optimizing wells, a skill in high demand as energy firms seek to wring every last drop of productivity from their assets.
The initial bloodletting has subsided, and laid-off workers are not staying on the sidelines for long, Bush said.
"The good news is that we are seeing something on the order of 75 percent of the people that get laid off are able to secure a position in those first 30 to 60 days," Bush said. "The industry is absorbing the talent that's hitting the street, by and large."