Since oil prices began a steep dive a year ago, crude production in the U.S. has held up relatively well—even as once booming parts of the country have seen a sharp pullback in investment and new drilling. Since peaking late last year, the number of rigs in use has been cut in half, prompting many oil and exploration companies to lay off many of the workers hired during the energy boom that followed the Great Recession.
Between January 2011 and the end of last year, the U.S. roughly added 170,000 new natural resources and mining jobs, ADP. But since the start of the year, roughly 76,000 of those jobs were eliminated, according to the firm.
That trend is likely to continue, unless oil prices stage a surprise recovery. Industry analysts say that isn't likely as long as global crude producers continue to pump at current levels and surplus oil supplies continue to build.
Production managers in the oil patch say they've reduced hiring and expect to continue to do so, according to a survey of hiring managers by Rigzone, an energy industry news and information site. Roughly half of those surveyed said they have cut back on hiring in the last three months and another 13 percent said they had frozen staffing levels. Some 65 percent said they've cut back on hiring plans for the next six months, according to Rigzone.
Those cutbacks are clearly seen in the areas of counties with the highest concentration of energy-related jobs compared to the national average. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics designates employment dependence based on a "location quotient" showing the ratio of sector jobs to the national average. A location quotient of 2, for example, means there are twice as many energy-sector jobs relative to a county's labor force than the U.S. average.)