Oil layoffs slowed in March, but firms still say 12,800 jobs will get axed

HOUSTON – The U.S. oil industry has begun to slow the pace of planned payroll cuts.

The nation’s oil producers and equipment suppliers announced plans to hand pink slips to 37,800 workers in the first three months of the year, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said Thursday.

And in the aftermath of crashing crude prices, another 10,000 U.S. jobs are set to disappear from manufacturing plants and other industries that depend on the oil business.

But petroleum-related downsizing slowed in March, the firm said, with about 12,800 planned cuts, a smaller cohort than in February. It was still about a third of the layoffs announced across the nation last month.

So far, Texas is outpacing every other state in planned layoffs, with 47,000 job cuts this year. That’s a big change from previous years, when Texas led the nation in job growth on a tidal wave of shale oil. Indeed, U.S. job cuts would have gone under the radar if not for low oil prices.

“Without these oil related cuts, we could have been looking at one of the lowest quarters for job-cutting since the mid-90s,” said John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement firm, in a written statement. The firm attributed 47,600 of the 140,000 job cuts announced in the first quarter to low oil prices.

On the other hand, Challenger said, hiring is up for U.S. automotive manufacturers and the domestic transportation sector, with 13,600 new job announcements so far this year, “benefiting by the oil slump which could ultimately positively impact consumers.”