After what seemed like an eternity of layoffs and cutbacks, the Alberta oilsands is expected to add close to 3,400 new jobs by 2020.
The oilsands is expected to employ 67,200 workers in four years, a jump of six per cent or 3,400 jobs, employment forecaster PetroLMI said Wednesday in its latest report.
A prolonged period of low commodity prices, along with declines in capital spending and wildfires in Fort McMurray have delayed a recovery in Alberta’s oilsands, said Carol Howes, spokeswoman for PetroLMI.
The oil and gas industry dropped an estimated 44,000 direct jobs since prices began to fall in late 2014.
According to the report, job losses in the sector are expected to be more than offset by 2020.
“We had expected, like many others, the recovery would happen a lot sooner than it has,” Howes said. “The price of oil remained lower for longer, and another factor was the Fort McMurray wildfires, which had an impact on production.”
In its February forecast, PetroLMI projected the oilsands would have seen slight job gains in 2016, but cost-cutting continued in the sector as the price of oil remained at depressed levels.
The latest report projects the oilsands will employ nearly 48,000 workers for construction, operations and ongoing maintenance by 2020, which accounts for 3,350 fewer jobs than the February forecast. The tally doesn’t include off-site module fabrication and turnaround maintenance.
Capital spending in the oilsands has plummeted by half since 2014, when oil prices began to fall, hitting $18 billion in 2016. Operators have focused on slashing costs, including cuts to their workforces, while also maintaining or even boosting production, the report finds.
With no new major projects on the horizon, spending in the sector is expected to shift in the next four years from growth and expansion to maintenance, repair and improvements to existing operations, according to the jobs forecast.
It means there will be 6,500 fewer construction jobs in the oilsands by 2020, though the losses will be largely offset by gains of roughly 6,300 maintenance jobs.
Actual employment growth will be fuelled by operations, driven largely by open-pit mining and, to a lesser extent, in situ or underground production.
Retirements are expected to add more job vacancies. Based on historical retirement rates and workforce demographics, PetroLMI forecasts oilsands companies may need to replace up to 3,200 retiring workers.
In the absence of major new projects, jobs tied to growth in capital spending, including geoscientists and construction managers, will see below-average hiring, the report said.
Operators are also expected to rely more heavily on independent contractors for a range of work.
On a positive note, the report said some companies that had expansion projects underway before the downturn benefited from lower costs and accelerated construction.
They have already started hiring ahead of moving those projects into operation in the next two years.
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