Oil layoffs reach 150,000, recruiting firm says

Jun 12, 2015 12:00 AM

Pelted by the oil-market crash, the energy industry’s job cuts reached 150,000 by the end of May, says energy recruiting firm Swift Worldwide Resources, and that figure had grown by a fifth since March.

While the pace of layoff announcements has certainly slowed in recent months, the United States has nonetheless seen the “the fastest and steepest decline,” Swift said in a recent update on job losses. Oil operations in the North Sea have also been hit hard.

Swift said the layoffs are ubiquitous, impacting western oil producers, state-owned oil companies, oil field service firms, engineering and construction companies and manufacturers. Contractors, the kind of labor Swift specializes in, are “often the first to get let go, with little fanfare,” though direct employees have been affected, as well.

The recruiting firm tracks both public and non-public data, and it is possible the industry’s layoffs actually exceed Swift’s numbers, Swift CEO Tobias Read said in the report.

“Where data is not publicly available we have kept our ear to the ground and made assumptions based on likely impact,” he said. “Our assumptions remain conservative and the likelihood is that total job losses probably substantially exceeds Swift’s forecast.”

A big portion of the layoffs have come from the oil fields service sector. In recent months, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Weatherford, the world’s four biggest oil-tool providers, have announced plans to ax nearly 50,000 jobs, all told.

Southeast Asia hasn’t seen substantial job losses, Swift said, but that could change in Korea, China and Singapore as orders haven’t come in as much as in the past. Angola and Nigeria have seen rigs sidelined and spending cuts, and Russia is still struggling under the weight of economic sanctions.

“The only substantially buoyant market is the Middle East, led by Saudi Arabia, where drilling activity is at a 20-year high,” Swift said. “Despite this, only a modest number of jobs are being created.”

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