Number of Canadians employed by oil and gas sector falls by 14,000, data

Monthly employment data suggests the number of people working in Canada’s oil and gas sector has fallen by more than 14,000 so far this spring, as the sector deals with low oil prices and the economic impact of COVID-19.

Figures published this month by Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI) say oil and gas employment fell to 162,748 in May from 177,332 in March — a drop of roughly eight per cent. Compared with May 2019, oil and gas employment is down 14 per cent, or 25,600 jobs. 

PetroLMI’s data and figures are sourced from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. 

“It’s not just the COVID-19 impact, but also the low oil and gas prices, which are continuing,” said PetroLMI vice-president Carol Howes of the jobs figures.

We do expect to see some additional layoffs in the next coming months and into next year.”

Howes said she’s not expecting the kinds of layoff numbers witnessed a few years ago after the decline in oil prices in 2014, when direct employment in the oil and gas exploration, services and pipeline sectors stood at about 226,000. 

“The sector is already quite, quite thin in terms of the number of people working in the industry,” Howes said. “As a result of that, we only have so much we can cut, so many places we can cut in terms of employment.”

‘The sector is already quite, quite thin in terms of the number of people working in the industry,’ says Carol Howes, vice-president at PetroLMI. (CBC)

North America’s oil industry has been hammered by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with demand for fuel plunging as an international price war flooded the market with cheap crude.

The situation spurred oil and gas companies to slash production and cut their capital spending plans by billions of dollars this year. It has also led to job losses.

On Thursday, oil and gas producer Ovintiv — formerly known as Encana — said it has slashed its workforce by 25 per cent as it prepares for more modest growth in the energy sector. The decision affected roughly 650 jobs.

Earlier this week, pipeline giant Enbridge announced that 800 people working for the company would be taking voluntary buyouts, including early retirement, as it aimed to avoid layoffs.

PetroLMI reports that while the bulk of oil and gas employment is in Alberta (128,180 people), thousands of jobs are located in British Columbia (8,304), Saskatchewan (8,940), Central Canada (4,924) and Atlantic Canada (7,680).

Howes said the sector most affected so far appears to be the oil and gas services sector.

“They’re the first sector to be impacted and mostly because if you’re not drilling for oil and gas, those are the jobs that are most directly impacted by layoffs,” she said.

A pumpjack works at a well head on an oil and gas installation in Alberta. The Canadian oilpatch has been hit hard by a drop in oil prices and the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Elizabeth Aquin,…

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