Falling oil prices have been good news for most Americans, leaving more money in their pockets after they fill up their cars and encouraging spending that leads to job growth. But the news is not as good for many people who want to work in the petroleum industry, according to a blog post from the Conference Board, which describes itself as “a global, independent business membership and research association working in the public interest.”
Employment has not yet dropped substantially, but the Conference Board expects the labor market to soften, as indicated by “a significant drop in new job ads in oil and gas extraction-related occupations,” the post says (emphasis in original). The change is “dramatic. … [A] whopping 42 percent decrease in ads for five extraction occupations (derrick operators, rotary drill operators, service unit operators, wellhead pumpers, and roustabout operators). The decline also hit related high-education occupations, with a 38 percent decrease in ads for petroleum engineers, geoscientists (except hydrologists and geographers), and geological and petroleum technicians.”
The decline also hit related high-education occupations, with a 38 percent decrease in ads for petroleum engineers, geoscientists (except hydrologists and geographers), and geological and petroleum technicians.
This is especially significant because the U.S. oil boom of the last decade—and the resulting demand for skilled workers—caused salaries for entry-level petroleum engineers to double, making them the highest paid of all new college graduates. Enrollments rose quickly as students hoped to get in on the hot career. As we reported in 2013, that year the prestigious petroleum engineering program at Texas A&M University, College Station, warned prospective students that, because of the influx of new talent, the labor market probably could not sustain the very high salaries of the preceding years.
If (as seems likely) the recent, dramatic drop in job ads presages a comparable contraction in employment, tough times may be ahead for petroleum-focused scientists.