Employment in the U.S. oilfield services and equipment (OFS) sector last month reached its highest level since a pandemic-induced reduction in the job count that began in March 2020, according to the Energy Workforce & Technology Council (Energy Workforce).

OFS jobs

The group publishes a state-by-state monthly tally based on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.

OFS employment rose by an estimated 4,677 jobs versus November to reach 650,587 in December, preliminary BLS data showed. November’s adjusted number of 645,910 is up from the preliminary number of 645,486, Energy Workforce said.

“Our industry is hiring and continues to build on its workforce across America to ensure we are meeting the growing global demand for energy,” said Energy Workforce CEO Leslie Beyer. The growth trend “is encouraging for our industry and workforce that was forced to make significant reductions in 2020. Even with a reduced workforce, our industry has been able to meet the spikes in demand and is producing close to pre-pandemic levels while developing new technology and deploying innovative production processes that are lowering emissions.” 

Beyer added, “Further investments and a level regulatory landscape are needed to unlock the full power of American energy, providing energy security for our nation and that of our allies while continuing to decrease global emissions and lowering energy costs.”

The December job count is 56,000 shy of the pre-pandemic February 2020 total of 706,528, Energy Workforce said.

Texas had the highest December OFS job count by far at 317,031 jobs. Upstream employment in the Lone Star State has been rising steadily since bottoming out in September 2020.

Louisiana came in second place last month with 54,324 jobs, followed by Oklahoma (49,510), Colorado (26,414), New Mexico (24,332) and California (23,811). Rounding out the list were Pennsylvania (23,551), North Dakota (20,233), Wyoming (15,094), Ohio (10,800), Alaska (10,084) and West Virginia (9,954).

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U.S. employers as a whole added 223,000 jobs in December, down from 263,000 added in November, BLS data showed.

“The participation rate increased slightly to 62.3% in December, and the overall unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%,” Energy Workforce said. “While the labor market remains relatively strong, it is cooling compared to the first two quarters of 2022. Additionally, most increases in hiring came in the leisure and hospitality, healthcare and construction sectors.”

The U.S. drilling rig count, meanwhile, showed a slight week/week decline for the week ended Friday (Jan. 6), though it was up 32% on a year/year basis. The Energy Information Administration, for its part, is modeling a 535 MMcf/d increase in natural gas production for January versus December, led by growth in the Haynesville Shale. Oil production, meanwhile, is seen growing by 94,000 b/d, led by the Permian Basin.