Oil bust claimed a third of service workers, but job market improving

The oil-market collapse that began nearly three years ago forced U.S. oil producers to dramatically curb drilling, eating into profits.

But the companies that supplied them drilling equipment and hydraulic fracturing services felt the oil-market crash even worse. Over the past two years, the 50 biggest oil field service companies have laid off more than one in three workers they had employed around the world at the peak of the oil boom in 2014, Rystad Energy said Thursday.

Put another way, 300,000 employees of oil field service companies lost their jobs, according to the firm’s estimates. But the worst of it is likely over. The job market has begun to improve, slowly. Energy service companies with ties to the U.S. shale business have begun putting out more job ads and started recruiting efforts again, the Norwegian consultancy said.

“Over the past few months we have seen more job-postings in North America,” said Audun Martinsen, an oil service research analyst at Rystad.

Martinsen noted some of these job postings have come from Houston drilling contractor Nabors Industries and its Canadian rival Precision Drilling.

Oil service firm Halliburton, also based in Houston, recently announced plans to hire 2,000 workers in its pressure pumping and cementing business. And Weatherford International, which has its main U.S. office in Houston, has also begun putting out more job ads, he said.