Gas Prices Drop, Unemployment Rises Among Oilfield Workers

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

March 23, 2015

While motorists were enjoying the steep drop in gas prices, workers in the oil industry grew more apprehensive with each penny’s decline at the pump. The lower prices plunged, the more at risk their jobs became.

Oilfield workers head to the unemployment line.

The recent rise in costs at the pump, the most sustained in two years, came too late to save 22,000 jobs. More cuts are predicted. California’s oil and gas industry employees total 188,500, and the state could be one of the nation’s most adversely affected over the next few years. Even oil executives with 20 to 30 years of service are vulnerable.

The fallout from such dramatic layoffs in a relatively short time period can be devastating. Former oil workers, who earn more than double the average wage for most private employers, will turn to construction, teaching or entry-level management jobs to maintain their living standard. But the problem is – and it’s a huge challenge – there are more workers than available jobs to fill. The worker surplus extends across all employment sectors. For example, the ratio of unemployed construction workers to open jobs is more than 6:1; education, 3:1, and business services, about 1.5:1.

With the labor participation rate for working age Americans 16-65 at an abysmally low 62.8 percent, President Obama’s executive action that will add 4 to 5 million newly authorized workers to a glutted labor pool would make already tough conditions for nearly 93 million Americans not participating in the labor force even more forbidding.
 

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