Texas drillers added jobs in July for first gain in 19 months

Rigs aren’t alone in the long trek back to the Texas oil patch.

Drillers across the state added about 100 new jobs in July, the first monthly gain since the Texas energy industry’s employment figures began falling dramatically in January 2015, economist Karr Ingham says.

Texas upstream companies – oil producers, service companies and rig contractors – had shed more than 102,000 jobs since the beginning of last year, piling on losses month after month, but July’s small increase may be a sign things are finally turning around for the state’s energy workforce.

“It’s not spectacular, but it’s a gain rather than a loss,” Ingham said. Ingham has not yet released the Texas Petro Index, a monthly report he prepares for the state’s oil industry. “I believe it’s a recovery in the making, but it’s a slow, frustrating and torturous one because prices aren’t going up as much as most people hoped. But the first thing was the bleeding had to stop, and it looks like we may be at that point.”

A worker waits to connect a drill bit on Endeavor Energy Resources's Big Dog Drilling Rig 22 in the Permian basin outside of Midland, Texas, on Dec. 12, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Brittany Sowacke)
A worker waits to connect a drill bit on Endeavor Energy Resources’s Big Dog Drilling Rig 22 in the Permian basin in 2014. (Brittany Sowacke/Bloomberg)

Ingham noted the Texas Petro Index, which measures drilling and related activity in Texas, still contracted in July. August and September may yield bigger bumps in drilling activity metrics and jobs, though: Oil companies have resurrected 68 rigs across Texas in the past four months, bringing the state’s rig count to 241. Drilling permits in Texas also are on the rise.

In the downturn, falling oil prices forced Texas oil companies to set down 733 rigs across the state as they cut jobs by the thousands. It was “a set of falling dominos,” Ingham said. “They’re being set up again.”

Ingham, an Amarillo economist who studies the upstream oil industry in Texas, makes adjustments to Texas Workforce Commission numbers to reach his conclusions, stripping out some official figures associated with statewide mining jobs.