Look Who’s Hiring-Thank GOD For Big Oil

May 5, 2011 5:08 pm 0 comments

To save keystrokes, reporters who cover financial issues probably now have a function key programmed for the word “unexpectedly” because it’s found in nearly every bad news report on the economy – and there has been no shortage of those in the past three years. Reuters reported today (emphasis mine):

New U.S. claims for unemployment aid unexpectedly rose last week to touch their highest level in eight months, pushed up by factors ranging from spring break layoffs to the introduction of an emergency benefits program, a government report showed on Thursday.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 43,000 to a seasonally adjusted 474,000, the highest since mid-August, the Labor Department said.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dropping to 410,000. The prior weeks figure was revised up to 431,000 from the previously reported 429,000.

The four-week moving average of unemployment claims, a better measure of underlying trends, increased 22,250 to 431,250, the highest since November.

The data falls outside the survey period for the governments closely watched employment report for April, which will be released on Friday. Nonfarm payrolls will be reported up 186,000 for last month, according to a Reuters survey, after rising by 216,000 in March—which was the most in 10 months.

Economists are blaming high food and gasoline prices for putting the damper on Q1 economic growth.

But not all HR managers are dozing at their desks like some air traffic controllers at their radar screens on the graveyard shift. According to Fuel Fix, there is one corner of the economy which is busy signing up workers, as the same high oil prices that are putting the hurt on other sectors have energy-related companies launching new projects from Texas to Iraq:

On the hunt for talent are major oil companies as well as lesser-known engineering firms, in a sweeping effort that recalls previous boom cycles and is likely to bring more jobs to Houston.

“We’re definitely back in heavy growth mode,” said Billy Stein, recruiting manager for Aker Solutions, a Norwegian engineering and construction company with offices in Houston.

Stein is one of many industry recruiters who converged on Houston this week for the 2011 Offshore Technology Conference, which concludes today at Reliant Park. Attracting more than 70,000 engineers and other technical professionals, the event is tailor-made for companies looking to fill vacant positions — and recruiters came ready.

BP had a lounge-like recruiting center set up in Reliant Stadium. Chevron Corp. hosted applicants at the Hotel Icon downtown. Others, including Saudi Aramco, had recruiting managers at booths on the show floor and were prepared to interview job candidates on the spot.

The renewed interest in hiring comes after some lean years for the industry, marked by recession, downsizing and cautious predictions of the future. When oil prices plummeted from the record highs of 2008 and energy demand stalled with the recession, Shell, BP and other oil majors cut thousands of jobs. Oil field services companies like Schlumberger and Halliburton and other support companies responded by making deep cuts of their own.

BP’s deadly Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico last year dealt the industry yet another blow by bringing most deep-water drilling activity to a halt in the U.S. offshore basin.

But in recent months, optimism began returning to the industry, as oil prices gave companies confidence to green-light new projects, such as massive offshore installations in the Gulf that can put thousands to work.

Those in the energy field are no strangers to the boom and bust cycle and are exercising due caution by being more cost conscious and applying a heavy dose of realism to the salary setting process. But with the unemployment rate just under 9 percent and a robustly competitive job market, they have no shortage of quality potential new hires to choose from.

Nearly 12,500 new vacancies were posted in March, a number which is 60 percent higher than at this time last year. More job seekers are letting their keyboards do their walking, as online applications have doubled. It’s all good news for engineering and geology graduates. Texas A&M’s Class of 2011 is finding a much more receptive employment environment — one in which their resumes are far more likely to actually be reviewed rather than filed away and forgotten — than last year’s crop of graduates faced.

Now if only the Obama Administration would remove the bans on its no-drill zones and cut away some of the red tape… Yes, it’s just a dream, but it’s one in which the use of the word “unexpectedly” would be appreciated for a change. As in “Acme Production Company’s request to drill a new well in the Gulf of Mexico was unexpectedly approved today…”

- JP

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