Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Scaricity of State Oil Field Jobs Expected to Worsen

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Scaricity of State Oil Field Jobs Expected to Worsen

Article excerpt

Illustrative of the desperate job search going on in the Oklahoma oilpatch now, more than 900 people have applied for 66 new positions at Conoco Inc.'s Ponca City refinery.

Thus, after only five or six days of taking applications since mid-January, Conoco has suspended the process at least until those applications on file can be reviewed. A time frame to lift the temporary moratorium could not be provided.

"That (900 job applications) is about the number of applicants we normally would expect to handle in a year under normal circumstances," said Bob Hassler, Conoco refinery operations manager. Conoco said most applicants are from Oklahoma and Kansas.

Meanwhile, 70 miles east of Ponca City in Bartlesville, 950 Phillips Petroleum Co. employees await layoffs among the oil company's workforce of 5,300 there. But all of those Phillips employees will not be notified until the end of the month.

Although downsizing among major oil companies like Phillips is more noticeable, many small oil and gas firms are cutting back because of the decline in drilling activity. The downturn is blamed chiefly on depressed natural gas prices and lower, more volatile, oil prices.

Thus, the job search in Oklahoma for workers in the oil and gas industry is going to tighten beyond the strain it is already under statewide.

"It's sure to get worse before it gets better," said Michael Mauller, manager of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission office in Bartlesville.

Last year, an estimated 3,100 jobs directly related to the oil and gas industry were lost, according to December figures from the state employment commission. In oil and gas extraction, there were an estimated 39,000 jobs in December, 7.4 percent behind 42,100 in December 1990. An estimated 300 mining jobs were added in January, according to the state, but the gain will soon be eroded by the Phillips layoff.

Since the height of the oil boom in 1981, more than 40,000 oil field jobs are estimated to have been lost. Nationwide, more than 300,000 oil and gas related jobs have been axed over the past decade.

In Kay County, where Ponca City is situated, and Washington County, where Bartlesville is located, the problem for oil field workers is exacerbated by a disproportionate reliance on mining jobs. Oil and gas industry jobs are classified in the mining sector by the government.

Mining employment as a percentage of total employment in Washington County is 14.7 percent; in Kay County it is 14.4 percent, according to state records. Statewide, mining jobs account for 3.4 percent of all non-agricultural work.

In Washington County, the number of Phillips layoffs is nearly equal to the number of people countywide that were unemployed before the announcement. Last month, Phillips disclosed that it would lay off 100 contract workers plus 850 employees, in addition to some 140 from the home office that were revealed in November. …

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