Shale patch unemployment plummets as US operators vie for crews

David Wethe, Catarina Saraiva November 04, 2022

(Bloomberg) – Unemployment in the US oil industry plummeted to one of the lowest levels on record as shale operators scramble for workers to keep production flowing.

The jobless rate fell to 0.8% in October from 2.5% in the prior month on an unadjusted basis, government figures released Friday show. That compares with an unemployment rate of 10% a year ago and matches the level set in July.

Labor shortages in the oilfield have been one of the biggest hurdles holding back production growth. Some frac-service providers including Halliburton Co., who must hire crew members to staff their fleets, are having to transfer labor from other US regions in order to operate in various shale fields.

Related news: Oilfield services jobs make slight gains as US faces tight labor market

Chris Wright, chief executive officer for Liberty Energy Inc., has called this the most difficult hiring market since the oilfield service company was launched in 2011.

At the same time, oil producers are under fire from politicians, including President Joe Biden, to increase output. Biden has slammed companies for their dollar profits and has vowed to impose a so-called windfall tax as the administration tries to deflect blame for high fuel prices at the pump.

The number of workers employed in US oil and gas jobs totaled 135,600 last month, down 3.5% from this year’s peak in July.

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