Shortage of workers may slow oilpatch recovery
CALGARY—As Canada’s energy sector seeks to capitalize on high oil and gas prices and recover from a six-year downturn, a shortage of rig workers threatens to curtail the industry’s growth. After years of depressed prices, layoffs and consolidation, oil and gas companies in Western Canada are once again ramping up production — this time to meet rising global energy demand as COVID-19 restrictions ease around the world. According to the Canadian Association of Energy Contractors, there were 175 active drilling rigs in Canada last week, compared to just 75 in the same period last year and 155 in 2019. Already, companies seeking to increase oil-and-gas output this year are running into labour market challenges. Data from PetroLMI, an industry labour market information provider and a division of EnergySafe Canada, shows the unemployment rate in the Canadian oiland-gas services sector fell from 17.7 per cent in September 2020 to 3.7 per cent in September 2021. PetroLMI vice-president Carol Howes said the biggest problem facing the industry is that while employment is up substantially, the size of the oil and gas service labour force remains largely unchanged from last year. Historically, many rig workers in Western Canada have come from other parts of the country, particularly the East Coast, and they went home when the COVID -19 pandemic hit. Many of those workers are reluctant to return to their jobs, Howes said.