Oil field services hit hard in jobs report

WASHINGTON — The United States shed just 500 oil and gas extraction jobs in May but jettisoned 16,900 jobs that provide support activities for the work.

The data from the government’s May employment report is further evidence that the impact of low crude prices is moving away from the oil field and into the supply chain that supports it.

West Texas Intermediate crude was trading at $58 per barrel on Friday, down from a high of $107.26 last June.

Overall, 193,800 people were employed in oil and gas extraction, and another 394,900 provide support activities for mining minerals, oil and gas. Those support jobs include work for service companies that run hydraulic fracturing operations at oil and gas wells.

The latest data suggests the worst may be over for workers employed by oil and gas producers, barring a new and deep plummet in crude prices.

A Chicago-based outplacement firm said exploration and production companies may be wary of cutting too deeply, so they retain skilled workers and in-house expertise when oil demand and prices rebound.

Some oil industry executives have admitted to being scarred from past down cycles, when they laid off too many workers and struggled to take advantage of climbing demand later.

At the IHS Energy CERAWeek conference in April, Pioneer Natural Resources CEO Scott Sheffield stressed the importance of keeping in-house talent — and even hiring new people during a downturn. “You gotta keep the people,” he said.