Overall, jobs in the petroleum industry declined 68% from the peak in 1981. More than 2 out of every 3 jobs in the industry are now gone.
Two factors combined to force this demise:
The price of oil cratered to less than $10/bbl in the mid 1980s, and it slumped again to less than $13/bbl in the late 1990s. Workforces were cut to keep companies afloat, and many went under. Pervasive mergers produced greater economies of scale, with the drive to reduce overhead and increase efficiency further reducing staff.
Major breakthroughs in workstation technology and 3D seismic brought better and much faster imaging of the subsurface with smaller staffs. Exploration success increased with fewer wells being drilled with better exploration technology. Still, less oil was being found, and “cut to the bone” staffing levels provided no cushion for a rebound when prices finally increased.
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