U.S. shale-patch jobless rate shows labor-market tightness endures

Sophie Caronello, Bloomberg December 02, 2022

(Bloomberg) — The short supply of labor in the U.S. oil patch has plagued exploration and production companies all year, and the tightness continues.

While the sector’s unemployment rate jumped to 3.1% in November from 0.8% in the prior month on an unadjusted basis, it’s still well below the long-term average, according to a Labor Department report released Friday. A year-ago, the jobless rate was 8.6% as many workers were sidelined due to the pandemic stalling output amid very weak oil demand.

Labor shortages in U.S. shale have been one of the biggest hurdles holding back production growth this year. Operators, who have faced repeated calls from the Biden administration to boost production amid rising energy costs, routinely cite their inability to find enough workers to drill new wells.

The number of workers employed in U.S. oil and gas jobs totaled 135,700 in November, climbing modestly for a third straight month, but still down from this year’s peak in July.

The tightness in the energy labor markets replicates trends in the wider economy. But the broader mining and logging industry — which includes oil and gas, according to the Labor Department’s classification — is the farthest behind of any sector in recovering its pandemic job losses, down 6.9% from February 2020.

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