Job recruitment is a chief factor driving employment numbers up, said Tim Tarpley, senior vice president of government affairs and counsel at the Energy Workforce and Technology Council.
“There is a tremendous amount of recruitment going on,” he said. “There is actually competition going on among our companies for workers.”
Although employment levels are rising, there is still a labor shortage within the industry, Tarpley said, and some companies are importing workers to Texas from far-flung states like the Dakotas, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Texas is the leading employer in the energy and technology sector with 314,000 workers employed. The nearest state is Louisiana with just 53,800 workers employed.
Job competition with other industries outside of the energy and technology sector is helping to depress employment rates, Tarpley said.
“Not everybody has come back,” he said. “Some are getting other jobs. There’s other areas like transportation where the pay has gone up for other jobs, so there’s competition outside of the industry.”
Employment levels still lag behind pre-pandemic levels, and oil production has been impacted specifically through low employment at oilfield equipment and services companies, Tarpley said.
“Our companies are being careful as they reenter the market,” he said. “They don’t want to oversupply the market, so they’re bringing folks back in a careful, prudent and slightly cautious manner.”
Reasons companies remain cautious include COVID-19 developments and regulatory uncertainty due to a blocked executive order from President Joe Biden, Tarpley said.
The executive order, signed in January, suspended new oil and gas leases on federal land, but a federal judge ruled against the moratorium in June.
“Companies are a little more hesitant to (go) out and hire a bunch of folks, and then they don’t know how long they’ll have access to new leases and permitting,” he said. “It’s our hope that the administration is starting to move away from that moratorium.”
According to a monthly report released by OPEC, COVID-19 is clouding predictions for world oil demand in 2021, but demand is expected to increase in 2022 past pre-COVID-19 levels.
With OPEC’s announcement, the major question is who will step up to fill the demand, Tarpley said.
“Is it going to be the United States, or is it going to be OPEC and Russia that are going to meet that demand?” he said.
As demand has risen in the United States, we have already seen an increase in Russian oil imports, Tarpley said.
It is important that the United States be the country to meet 2022’s potential oil demand not just for economic reasons, but environmental reasons as well, Tarpley said.
“Oil and gas that is produced in the United States is produced cleaner and more efficiently than virtually anywhere else,” he said. “If we make decisions that allow our competitors to fill that void, it’s going to probably be filled by oil and gas that’s produced not as clean and efficiently.”
Cody covers the business beat for the Advocate. He can be reached at 361-580-6504 or email@example.com.
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