With one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, Oklahoma City's job market is well-positioned to absorb many of the 640 workers laid off from Chesapeake Energy Corp.
However, workers in some career fields will have an easier time finding new jobs than others, job recruiters said.
While Oklahoma City's oil and gas sector remains strong, workers in highly specialized fields such as petroleum land management, geosciences and engineering may be forced to consider relocating to a new city to find work, said Christopher Melillo, managing partner for the Dallas-based executive recruiter Kaye/Bassman International Corp.
“The market in Oklahoma City is going to become somewhat flooded,” Melillo said. “There have been a couple of companies in Oklahoma City that have been in growth mode, but not at the level of Chesapeake.”
Chesapeake has typically paid its employees more than some of its local competitors, and laid-off workers might be forced to take a pay cut to stay in Oklahoma City, he said.
Relocation for some
Melillo, who specializes in recruiting for energy sector companies, said that job seekers who are willing to relocate to cities with strong oil and gas job markets such as Houston, Denver and Midland, Texas, will be more likely to find new positions quickly.
“This is the largest anticipated layoff from an energy company in a number of years,” Melillo said of the Chesapeake layoffs. “It's going to have somewhat of a ripple effect.”
Chesapeake Energy CEO Doug Lawler said in an interview with The Oklahoman Tuesday that employees laid off from Chesapeake will probably have no problem finding work in the thriving energy sector, but hinted that some affected workers would likely have to consider leaving Oklahoma City.
“I see the industry as continuing to grow and having a significant presence with the energy needs in the United States,” Lawler said. “While Oklahoma City is very strong, there are also other very strong markets in the U.S. I believe all those employees will have opportunities to find work elsewhere.”
IT workers in demand
Skilled workers who were laid off from Chesapeake's information technology division shouldn't have much trouble finding new, high-paying jobs in Oklahoma City, said Dan Dungy, Oklahoma City division director for the IT recruiter Robert Half Technology.
While the jobless rate in Oklahoma City has hovered several points below the national average for the past several months at around 5 percent, the unemployment rate for IT jobs is generally about half of that rate, Dungy said.
“We've been very busy — the demand is high in this market for highly skilled IT professionals, particularly in software development and database administration,” he said.
While Dungy couldn't comment on the hiring plans of specific local employers, he said demand for skilled IT workers was high for energy sector jobs. IT workers are also in sought after by health care and manufacturing companies, he said.
Local employers hiring
According to a recent survey of local employers conducted by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, 73 percent of employers said they are in a growth cycle and planned to expand their business, said Cynthia Reid, vice president of marketing and communications for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
The seven counties that make up the Greater Oklahoma City area are also home to about 1,200 energy firms that will be able to absorb some of the workers laid off from Chesapeake, Reid said.
“Because of our high concentration in the energy employment and other growing companies in the market, we've still got a very strong jobs market,” Reid said.
Energy jobs make up about 3.6 percent of Oklahoma City's total employment, according to the chamber.
“What will be a real, true reflection of the local economy will be to see how well these employees are absorbed into other jobs,” Reid said.
Adam Wilmoth, Energy Editor