Still a tough go for oil and gas workers

PetroLMI has just released a 2019 Oil and Gas Labour Market Update, which looks at employment projections across the industry, including the conventional exploration and production (E&P), oil sands, oil and gas services and pipeline sub-sectors, and by key occupations. We are forecasting that about 12,500 direct jobs are at risk in 2019, mostly in Alberta, and mostly in the oil and gas services sector. Canada’s direct oil and gas workforce is forecast to decline by 23% from a peak of 226,500 in 2014, and a drop of 7% from 185,800 at the end of 2018.

Until there is more market certainty, proposed pipelines are approved and into construction and planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities move further along, the forecast for employment in Canada’s oil and gas industry will remain constrained.

PetroLMI relies on oil and gas companies to provide their capital and operating spending to project workforce requirements through our forecasting model. Several companies provided limited guidance for 2019 and beyond because of the market’s uncertainty. As a result, for the first time, we limited our forecast to one year.

Currently, capital spending by the oil and gas industry is expected to fall to $32 billion in 2019, down from $80 billion in 2014. There are jobs at risk across most of the industry’s sub-sectors and across geographic regions.

Where are the greatest risks and where are the opportunities?

The largest risk of job loss is in regions where there is the greatest production. As Canada’s largest energy-producing province, Alberta will be impacted the most by the industry’s reduced spending, with a potential loss of 9,600 positions. British Columbia, meanwhile, will benefit from some pipeline and natural gas processing activity and is forecast to have a slight increase in employment of about 200 jobs.

Across the sub-sectors, the services sector will be the hardest hit, as its level of activity is directly tied to the amount of spending by oil and gas producers. In oil and gas services about 7,600 jobs are at risk. There will be some demand for workers with certain types of skills, those in software development, sensor installation and maintenance and IT infrastructure development and maintenance, for instance.

In the E&P sub-sector, about 3,700 jobs are at risk. Some expansion of natural gas processing may provide opportunities for certain kinds of occupations, such as supervisors in petroleum, gas and chemical processing and utilities, and operators in petroleum, gas and chemical processing. As well, with more natural gas processing, plants will require more operators certified as power engineers.

In the oil sands, 1,400 jobs are currently at risk, with most of those coming from mining operations. Without any new major oil sands projects coming on stream, most of the capital spending in this sub-sector is going towards maintenance activities.

Only the pipeline sub-sector is expected to see a minor increase in its workforce by about 200 jobs as a result of hiring for smaller pipeline projects and a ramping up of certain roles in preparation for some of the proposed larger pipeline projects. These include regulatory and stakeholder engagement, engineers, technologists and technicians and supply chain professionals.

Opportunities going forward

While the 2019 Oil and Gas Labour Market Update examines workforce projections for one year, it also looks at overall changes and trends that will impact industry hiring over the next decade. A series of blog posts coming soon will dive deeper into:

  • Opportunities on the horizon for Indigenous communities
  • The Alberta orphan well program and what it means for jobs
  • Technology advancements and the changing skills that will be required
  • Opportunities that will come with the expansion of Canada’s natural gas infrastructure
  • The impacts that oil and gas projects have on employment in the construction industry

Stay Tuned!

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