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September Employment Report: OFS Sector Adds Jobs for the First Time Since Pandemic Began

America’s oilfield services and equipment employment rose by almost 1,400 jobs in September, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the first time the sector has added positions since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. The U.S. economy added 661,000 jobs in September, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.9%.

While the September data is encouraging, BLS revisions showed that August job losses were more severe than initially reported. According to BLS’s updated figures, the OFS sector lost 7,800 jobs in August — 5,200 more than shown in the preliminary data released last month. 

The monthly Oilfield Services and Equipment Employment Report report, compiled and published by PESA, estimates total job losses due to pandemic-related demand destruction reached 106,218 in September. OFS employment is down more than 121,000 jobs since September 2019 and is hovering at its lowest point since March 2017.

Using BLS data, PESA, in consultation with researchers from the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston, estimates OFS sector jobs in the U.S. dropped from 757,516 in February to 651,298 in September, a decline of 14.0%. Losses were heaviest in April, totalling 58,738 jobs — the largest one-month total since at least 2013.

OFS employment year-over-year fell from 772,403  jobs in September 2019 to 651,298 in 2020, a decline of 15.7%. The jobs lost represent annual wages of approximately $15.2 billion. 

OFS employment rose slightly in September as companies stepped up oil and gas production. While the worst of the cutbacks appear to be behind the industry, the outlook remains uncertain because a resurgence in COVID-19 cases could suppress demand and derail economic recovery. 

PESA analysis of Small Business Administration data found that approximately 180,000 OFS jobs were supported by loans from the Paycheck Protection Program.

According to PESA’s analysis, the following states have lost 4,000 or more OFS jobs in 2020:

  1. Texas 59,700
  2. Louisiana 10,300
  3. Oklahoma 9,300
  4. Colorado 5,000
  5. New Mexico 4,500
  6. California 4,500
  7. Pennsylvania 4,400

OFS employment was estimated by analyzing data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and covers the economic activities of OFS companies, which include oil and gas extraction, construction and manufacturing. Total employment is estimated using the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, published by BLS, and jobs data reported by BLS monthly.

Note: BLS data is preliminary for the two most recent months and is subject to revision. PESA updates its monthly totals according to BLS corrections and quarterly updates to the statistical model.

For additional information or questions about the report, contact lead researcher and PESA Director of Communications and Research Kevin Broom.

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