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Texas oil, gas industry has recovered less than half of jobs lost in downturn

Nearly two years after the oil and gas price collapse leveled out, less than half of the industry jobs lost in Texas during the downturn have come back.

Even after 23 consecutive months of growth, only 49% of the jobs lost during the 2014-2016 down cycle have been refilled, the Texas Oil & Gas Association said Dec. 11. That means more than 56,000 oil and gas jobs have returned to Texas, but an estimated 115,000 had been lost during the multiyear decline.

"The upward trend in upstream job growth continues as oil and natural gas companies invest in Texas, anchoring the state's position as a global energy leader," said Todd Staples, president of the association, as the group touted an increase of 2,400 upstream jobs in October. "Our economy, our environment and our future are more secure because of what's happening in the oil and natural gas industry in Texas."

During the downturn, many producers focused on becoming more efficient, and as a result, some of the jobs lost may never return. The industry is also showing an increased desire to use advanced technology from the drill bit to the front office, which would cut the need for still more positions.

"More and more companies are looking hard at deployment of artificial intelligence, analytics, robotics, and blockchain to increase efficiency, productivity, reliability, and predictability of operations," Deloitte said in its 2019 outlook for the oil and gas industry.

Amarillo, Texas-based economist and industry analyst Karr Ingham said in a commentary that job growth is happening in Texas in all three oil and gas sectors: upstream, midstream and downstream. Ingham, who described the job losses as a "bloodbath" in 2017, said technology may have altered the equation, but more jobs would be filled so long as production growth continues.

"The relationship between employment and production is ever-changing, and it looks different now than it did even during the previous upstream expansion. But this much is certain — upstream oil and gas employment in the Permian, in Texas, and in the US is steadily on the rise and has been since late 2016," he said.