The Texas upstream oil and gas sector added a record number of jobs in May, boosting employment to the highest since early 2020, as producers find success luring more workers back to the field.
Texas last month had 206,000 workers employed in oil and gas extraction and supporting activities, up by 3.5pc from 199,100 workers in April, according to Texas Workforce Commission data. The gain of 6,900 workers was the largest month-over-month increase since at least 1990, when the commission’s data series began.
Employment in May was 12pc higher than a year earlier and 26pc higher than in May 2021, with the past 24 months showing mostly modest but steady gains in the sector.
Employment has not been this high since March 2020 when the state agency reported 218,000 workers in the sector. Employment bottomed out at 157,000 workers in September 2020 during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, but current levels are still about 30,000 workers below the 2019 average.
Attracting workers in a sector prone to boom and bust has proved challenging over the past year for many Texas producers, already hampered by a variety of other inflationary pressures. This has been particularly true in the prolific Permian basin of west Texas and southeast New Mexico, but some constraints have started to ease of late.
The highest level of employment in Texas’ upstream sector was 308,900 workers in December 2014,according to commission records, a time when the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) at Cushing, Oklahoma, was in free fall on a US shale-driven supply boom and Opec’s laissez-faire production policy. WTI fell from over $100/bl in July 2014 to $45/bl by January 2015, causing Texas’ upstream oil and gas sector to shed nearly 100,000 jobs in 2015.