The headline of a Calgary Herald story on March 30 warns: “ Another 8,700 oil jobs are at risk if prices drop below US$50 for a sustained period, according to new study” . Based on a labour market study by Enform consultancy, the Herald states that this possible job loss would follow the loss of 52,500 direct jobs between 2015 and 2016, without even taking into account the job turmoil caused by the 2017 mergers and acquisitions in the Canadian oil sands: Canadian Natural Resources and Shell ; Cenovus Energy and Conoco Phillips; and most recently, Enbridge and Spectra Energy .
The original Enform study on which the newspaper article is based provides much more detail. Labour Market Outlook 2017 to 2021 for Canada’s Oil and Gas Industry was prepared by PetroLMI, a Division of Enform, and was partly funded by Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives program. It reports that the oil and gas industry directly employed an estimated 174,000 workers at the end of 2016, (down by 25 per cent from the industry peak of over 226,000 in 2014). It forecasts job growth for two different scenarios – oil prices well above or well below US$50 per barrel from 2017- 2021 . The “modest recovery” scenario, (prices above US $50) ìs forecast to support an annual average of 554,000 direct and indirect jobs in the next five years; the “Delayed Recovery” is forecast to support 508,000 jobs. The report provides detailed statistics by subsectors, occupations, and regions. The report also notes the shrinking labour pool, as workers are discouraged from remaining or entering the sector, and as older workers retire. Although the forecast expects limited job recovery in the next two years, it concludes that the peak employment levels will not return. “Heading towards 2021 and beyond, accessing world markets via new pipelines will be critical for full job recovery. Equally important will be investing in technology, innovation and a highly-skilled and technical workforce to sustain the productivity and efficiency gains achieved in the last few years. These things will be critical if the industry is to compete globally and make a transition through carbon regulations.” See the full suite of forecasts for the oil and gas industry, including the LNG industry, here .