PetroLMI releases industry labour market outlook for 2021 to 2023

Canada’s oil and gas industry workforce can expect to see some further contraction in 2021 but modest employment growth will follow over 2022 and 2023, says a labour market outlook recently released by PetroLMI. According to the forecast, the industry’s direct employment is projected to rise to about 176,000 by 2023 surpassing 2020 levels but falling short of the 2019 employment level of 188,800 workers.

A strong energy industry will be an important component of Canada’s recovery from COVID-19, and we are starting to see some renewed activity. We expect to see slight increases in capital spending in 2021. Through mergers and acquisitions, we have already seen layoffs in 2021 and it’s expected there will be more workforce adjustments in the months ahead, but we will see employment beginning to recover in 2022.

Carol Howes, Vice President of Communication and PetroLMI, Energy Safety Canada

Data at your fingertips

All the data and information from PetroLMI’s Labour Market Outlook is available on our outlook dashboard, including a breakdown of hiring requirements and top occupations by industry sub-sector; and the ability to filter data by region, sub-sector and occupation.

An overview of workforce requirements for the industry’s exploration and production (E&P), oil sands, oil and gas services and pipelines sub-sectors is provided in a summary report – Labour Market Outlook 2021 to 2023: Canada’s Oil and Gas Industry.

It is accompanied by research on key areas impacting the industry’s hiring: Getting Displaced Oil and Gas Services Workers Back to Work: Oil and Gas Site Reclamation ProgramsPowering the Future: The LNG OpportunityThe Energy Transition: The Clean Energy OpportunityFrom AI to Zero-Carbon: The New Technology Opportunity; and, Identifying and Addressing Labour Supply Gaps.
In addition, PetroLMI will host two webinars featuring guest panelist, Bemal Mehta, Managing Director, Energy Intelligence for geoLOGIC Systems/JWN Energy:

  • Monday, March 29 – 1 p.m. MST – REGISTER
    Overview of what’s driving labour market changes, opportunities for the next three years and a look at our outlook dashboard
  • Tuesday, March 30 – 11 a.m. MST – REGISTER
    Details of the data by sub-sector, region and occupation and additional research on key areas impacting hiring

Did you know?

Net hiring is the sum of job openings created due to demand from industry activity and replacement demand due to age-related attrition (retirements and deaths).

Source: PetroLMI

Research highlights

The oil and gas industry will need about 19,800 net new workers by 2023 – 7,800 positions due to industry activity and almost 12,000 replacement roles for those who are eligible to retire, assuming traditional retirement rates are to occur, says the research.

While some of these gains are encouraging, it is important to remember this follows a long downturn and the COVID-19 pandemic during which industry employment has contracted substantially. With the magnitude of the downsizing since 2014, the industry will be challenged to attract workers back, particularly in the oil and gas services sub-sector – which is starting to experience skills gaps.

The energy industry workforce will look quite different. Increasingly, companies are focusing on profitability over production to increase productivity, says the research and roles in some traditional oil and gas sub-sectors are changing with the application of new technologies. In addition, not all retiring workers will be replaced by the same occupation; companies may choose to fill a gap and hire someone with different skills.

Navigating change is not new for Canada’s oil and gas industry. Even the most turbulent of times can set the conditions to emerge stronger.


The oil and gas services and E&P sub-sectors are expected to see the largest gains in net hiring over the forecast period with about 13,000 jobs and 6,900 jobs, respectively. These jobs are driven by LNG development, improving commodity prices and some stabilization from the federal government’s injection of $1.7 billion into a reclamation program for inactive oil and gas well sites. Due to industry consolidation and uncertainty, employment in the oil sands and pipelines sub-sectors is expected to stabilize but not fully recover during the forecast period.

As the industry looks to low-carbon solutions and ways to diversify and expand beyond the traditional areas of oil and gas production, there will be new opportunities for workers in energy-adjacent sectors — like renewables, carbon capture utilization and storage and biofuels. Canada’s oil and gas human capital will be an advantage as the science and engineering skills required to extract, develop, produce, process and export oil and gas are transferable to these other energy sectors, says the research.

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