Fluctuation is nothing new for Alaska oil industry employment, which has waxed and waned for decades.
Prior to the most recent job loss, the industry had been on a decade-long growth trend--and that was preceded by a fifteenyear decline. Unlike the current contraction, however, Alaska's total job count continued to grow during those years.
The state's oil production peaked in 1988, and the industry reached a high of 10,700 jobs in 1991. It wouldn't break that 10,000 barrier again until 2006, though. With an extended period of low oil prices, the industry lost 2,200 jobs between 1991 and 1997.
Then in 2001, employment spiked, reaching a ten-year high with the development of the Alpine and North Star oil fields before falling that same year and hovering at the 8,000 level again through 2004.
By that point, Alaska's oil industry appeared to be entering a permanent era of stagnation or enduring decline. But four years of aboveaverage oil prices-which by 2005 were more than double the 2001 low-breathed new life into the industry, which began to grow again with work on West Sak, maintenance in Prudhoe Bay, and continued development of a number of satellite fields. In early 2006, a section of BP's pipeline sprung a leak, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars spent on repairs.
Record oil prices also ushered in a long list of new players and new projects, such as Pioneer Natural Resources and ENI's Oooguruk and Nikaitchuq off-shore prospects. Other major players fueled further activity and growth, including big investments by ConocoPhillips, Shell's massive offshore drilling efforts, and Exxon's Point Thompson undertaking to ship gas condensate. Relative newcomers such as Hilcorp led a big upswing in activity in Alaska's oldest oil and gas province, Cook Inlet.
Oil Industry a Small Slice of Jobs, Bigger Share of Wages Alaska's Industry Mix, 2015 Total Wages Oil and Gas 11% Construction 8% Manufacturing 4% Retail 6% Leisure and Hospitality 4% Professional Business Services 10% Government 24% Health Care 10% Financial 4% Other 8% Trade, Trans, and Utilities 8% Total Jobs Oil and Gas 1% Construction 5% Manufacturing 4% Retail 11% Leisure and Hospitality 10% Professional/ Business Services 9% Government 24% Health Care 10% Financial 4% Other 10% Trade, Trans, and Utilities 6% Note: Residents only Direct oil industry jobs represented 4 percent of all wage and salary employment for Alaska residents in 2015. Oil is a relatively small employer, but...