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Oil and gas industry adds jobs for first time since 2014

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Jobs in Texas’ oil and gas industry rose at the end of 2016 for the first time more than two years, another sign that the long-awaited recovery in the state’s energy sector is gaining traction.

Texas added an estimated 3,000 oil and gas jobs in November and December, after shedding more than 100,000 during the industry downturn that began in mid-2014, said Karr Ingham, an economist who studies the state’s oil and gas sector. “For the first time in three years,” he said, ” there’s optimism.”

The job gains are that latest indicator that the oil and gas industry is rebounding after an extended bust. Oil prices have doubled since hitting a low or $26 a barrel, settling in New York Wednesday at $52.75. Drillers have returned nearly 140 rigs to operation in Texas oil and gas fields since May, when the rig count hit bottom. Companies are flocking to productive and lucrative Permian Basin in West Texas, spending billions to acquire land and drilling rights.

But Ingham, who released his analysis for the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers Wednesday, cautioned that the industry shouldn’t expect to see a boom anytime soon. Despite recent gains, both the rig count and drilling permits are down about two-thirds from their peak in 2014, when prices rose above $100 a barrel. The state, for example, issued more than 3,000 drilling permits in both September and October 2014; in December, the state issued just over 1,000.

Oil production is still down from a year ago. And it could take years for the state to recover the jobs lost in the bust.

“Essentially, all we’ve done is stop bleeding at this point,” Ingham said, “but at least we aren’t continuing to bleed.”

The outlook for the energy industry has improved since the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major producers, such as Russia, agreed to cut crude oil production by about 1.8 million barrels a day, pushing prices above $50 a barrel and restarting drilling activity,

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Written by Ryan Maye Handy

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