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Less hiring planned after 65% of oil and gas companies trim staff, survey finds

Last Updated Nov 30, 2016 at 9:58 am MDT

Suncor, oilsands project

CALGARY – Nearly a third of oil and gas industry employers are expecting another tough year in 2017 after 65 per cent of them were forced to cut staff this year, according to a survey by recruitment firm Hays Canada.

About 28 per cent of energy sector employers expect to hire fewer people in 2017 than in 2016, while 15 per cent expect some growth and about half predict stability, the Canadian arm of U.K.-based Hays reported in its annual sample of hiring intentions released Tuesday.

Hays vice-president Jim Fearon, who is based in Calgary, said the industry has experienced “a very turbulent couple of years,” but many employers are hopeful that the worst of the slowdown is behind them.

“I think that more people are cautiously optimistic that the bottom of the market has been reached,” he said.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers estimates at least 44,000 direct jobs have been lost in the oil and gas industry since the downturn started in 2014.

The Hays survey also found many energy company heads fear recovery will be made more difficult because skilled oilfield workers are leaving Alberta to find jobs in other provinces, with the biggest competition for labour coming from British Columbia and Ontario.

In a separate report, Calgary-based AltaCorp Capital Inc. said Alberta energy companies are opting to cut staff, not wages, as they struggle to rein in costs in view of lower commodity prices.

It said Alberta oil and gas companies have eliminated about 29 per cent of their staff over the past two years but remaining resource sector workers are still bringing in about $2,300 per week, up nearly 25 per cent from five years ago.

Nationally, the Hays survey of 4,000 employers and employees across Canada found that business growth expectations for all industries are slightly higher than a year ago but about half of employers don’t plan to increase salaries or add staff.

It concludes that average salaries will increase by a “nominal” three per cent or less. One-third of employers plan to increase head count and half plan to stick with their current staff numbers, the survey found.

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Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly stated where recruitment firm Hays is based.