Texas energy employment returns to record highs

Texas’ oil and gas industry employment returned to its pre-recession highs in June, with 224,200 workers involved in exploration and production according to the Texas Petroleum Index.

The employment figure, which is nearly 15 percent higher than June 2010, marks the first time more Texans have been working in the state’s oil and gas industry than in October 2008, the peak of the industry’s last boom, said Karr Ingham, the economist who created the TPI and updates it monthly.

“In the past 12 months, the industry has added more than 28,600 jobs, which is nearly 13 percent of all jobs added to the Texas economy,” Ingham said. “That’s really an accomplishment, considering the TPI in June indicates the industry still has not recovered to the level of economic health that created the last jobs milestone.”

The Texas Petro Index is a composite based on economic indicators such as commodity prices, production volumes, employment and drilling data. The index starts with 1995 as the base year.

The Texas Petro Index grew in June for the 18th consecutive month to 243.5, from a low in December 2009 of 186.6.  It has not yet returned to its peak, 286.0, recorded in September and October 2008.

This recent growth spurt is different from the prior boom from 2002 to 2008.

Back then the growth was due largely to transformation of the natural gas drilling and production business as advances in technology opened shale plays to greater activity.

“In the current expansion, the industry has returned to its crude oil roots, but even at that, it is not the same industry as it was in the 1980s and 1990s,” Ingham said.

Natural gas prices continue to be lower than they were during the prior boom, while statewide rig counts have yet to return to 2008 peak — down about 100 rigs through June.

Over the last 12 months, the upstream oil and gas industry has directly accounted for nearly 13 percent of all jobs added to the Texas economy, Ingham said. From May to June alone, the statewide economy added an estimated 32,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, and the upstream oil and gas industry accounted for nearly 10 percent of those jobs.