Oil crash job losses in Texas may be steeper than previously thought

The number of oil and gas job losses in Texas may be far worse than an industry group originally predicted, potentially reaching 56,000, according to the latest analysis by the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

When crude prices started collapsing late last year, Karr Ingham, a petroleum economist for the alliance, initially forecast that the state could lose 40,000 to 50,000 upstream oil and gas jobs during the downturn, but the fresh plunge in oil prices over the summer forced additional round of layoffs across Texas.

“We now appear to be well beyond that estimate and the end is not in sight,” Ingham said in a statement Thursday.

He developed the Texas Petro Index, which measures the industry’s health by factoring in production numbers, the number of active drilling rigs and the total number of people employed by oil and gas companies. The index derives its employment data from the Texas Workforce Commission’s monthly employment statistics, which place the number of job losses at 30,000 between December and September.

But those statistics provide a full picture of the number of workers on energy companies’ payrolls, many whom don’t fall into traditional oil and gas classifications, and the numbers often get revised months later.

Another data set issued quarterly by the the commission measuring the state’s employment and wages at the county level found that the industry likely cut 48,000 in the first six months of the year, a staggering figure, Ingham said.

The layoff announcements continued to mount in the third quarter, which means that the state may have lost as many as 56,000 jobs, an estimate that Ingham called conservative.

In all, 279,600 Texans remain employed by oil and gas companies in the state, although those figures may be overstated, Ingham said. That’s down 8.3 percent from the record employment of 305,000 in December, but still substantially higher than the low point of industry employment during the recession in October 2009, when the number of Texans on oil and gas payrolls tumbled to 179,200.

As oil companies continue slashing jobs and idling rigs to save money, the Texas Petro Index slipped again in September to 226.2, down 27 percent from the prior year. Despite rampant cost-cutting, exploration and production firms managed to continue pulling more oil and gas from the ground from the same time a year ago, boosting crude production by 10.5 percent to 104.9 million barrels in September.

Natural gas output swelled by 2.6 percent to 728.5 billion cubic feet.