A “stunning” increase in Texas oil and gas industry employment, which was revealed by revisions to recent workforce statistics, was driven by gains in the number of jobs supporting oil and gas exploration and production, said the economist who compiles the Texas Petro Index (TPI), a barometer of the industry’s health in the Lone Star State.

The number of Texans estimated to be on oil and gas industry payrolls in February reached a record 270,300, according to statistical methods based upon Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) estimates revised in March. Industry employment in Texas dropped to a low of 179,200 in October 2009 after reaching a high of 223,200 in October 2008 during the previous growth cycle.

“Before the [employment data] revision, the TWC estimated that total upstream oil and gas employment in Texas was slightly more than 250,000 at year-end 2012,” said economist Karr Ingham. “Following the revision, the number of Texans estimated to be working in the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry at the end of the year increased to more than 267,000.

“Employment at companies in the ‘support activities’ category, which includes drilling and service companies, accounted for all of the jobs added to oil and gas company payrolls in 2012, highlighting the importance of the exploration function in industry job creation.”

Recent studies have shown that oil and gas industry jobs pay better than those in many other sectors. Oil and gas professionals in the U.S. are the sixth best compensated in the world, according to an Australian consultancy. A separate report from the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO) found that the domestic oil and natural gas industry paid a national annualized wage of $107,200 last year, 119% more than the average private sector wage of $48,900 (see Daily GPI, April 3).

The U.S. oil and gas industry employed 971,200 people in the first half of 2012, up 7% from 2011, and had a payroll of $104 billion, a 12% increase from 2011. Texas led the nation in oil and gas jobs with 379,800 people employed in the industry, according to TIPRO.

In February, the Railroad Commission of Texas issued 1,744 drilling permits, about 3% fewer than the number issued in February 2012, Ingham said. “But combined with permits granted in January (1,978), the commission issued 3,722 permits through February. That’s 10% more than in January-February last year and the strongest start to a year in the entire history of the TPI.” The TPI is a service of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

A composite index based upon a group of upstream economic indicators, the TPI in February increased to 275.0 from 274.5 in January and 270.9 in February 2012. The TPI reached an all-time high of 287.8 in October 2008 and then declined to 188.5 in December 2009 before embarking upon the current growth cycle. The TPI peaked in the current cycle at 275.5 in August 2012.

Texas Crude oil production in February was 50.6 million bbl, about 3.9 million bbl (8.3%) more than in February 2012. Crude oil wellhead prices averaged $91.90/bbl, about 7% less than in February 2012. Production gains more than offset lower prices to increase the value of Texas-produced crude oil by 0.7%, to more than $4.6 billion, according to Ingham.

Estimated Texas natural gas output in February was about 528.7 Bcf, a year-over-year monthly decline of 12.5%. Natural gas prices averaged $3.27/Mcf, about 26.3% more than in February 2012. Higher wellhead prices more than offset the production decline to boost the value of Texas-produced gas to more than $1.7 billion, 10.7% more than in February 2012, according to Ingham.

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