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New oil and gas hiring in New Mexico shows optimism for rising prices

Laura Paskus, New Mexico In Depth
In northwestern New Mexico, energy companies drill for oil within shale deposits. Since this photo was taken in late 2014, exploration there has slowed.

  FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Jobs in the energy industry are slowly coming back to northwest New Mexico, marking a shift after several setbacks in commodity pricing and market demand for U.S. oil and gas.

Producers and oil service companies in the Farmington area are beginning to hire again, falling in line with what local unemployment numbers show, The Daily Times reported .

San Juan County's unemployment rate was 6.4 percent in 2014. The rate then jumped to 8.9 percent in 2016, according to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.

Through June of this year, the rate showed improvement as it fell to 8.3 percent.

Halliburton's Farmington office posted for more than 30 job openings last month for service operators, supervisors, mechanics and technicians. The hiring trend is consistent throughout the district and is a result of the increases in local activity, said Larry Kent, the company's senior district manager for Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Commodity prices have not changed much, but the interest and attitude of area producers is changing, Kent said. His company is reacting to the producers' interest and attitude, causing the oilfield service company to hire permanent employees instead of filling positions on a temporary basis, he said.

"If we thought that this was going to be a temporary situation and these weren't permanent jobs, (temporary hiring is) the route that we would go, because it would be less expensive in the long run on the temporary side," Kent said. "Because we believe that it is a turn in the market long term, we're going to make that commitment to hire people permanent."

Dugan Production Corp. announced plans in March to drill up to 17 new gas wells in the San Juan Basin, an area that covers parts of northwest New Mexico and southwest Colorado. The company constructed 11 by October, and another six were scheduled to be drilled in coming months, according to company officials.

While the project didn't create jobs at the company, it used service companies and contractors for the work.

Dugan Vice President John Alexander said that while a turning point could be coming for the area's gas and oil industry, many global factors like changing regulations, market prices and demand influence what happens on the local level.

"Will it turn? Eventually and obviously, toward the end somewhere as you run out of hydrocarbon reserves, sure it will change," Alexander said. "It sure doesn't look like it's going to be anytime quickly though, as far as we can determine."


Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.daily-times.com