OCTOBER 13, 2019 / 4:34 AM / UPDATED 3 HOURS AGO
‘Broken system’ starves U.S. oil boom of immigrant workers
HOBBS, N.M. (Reuters) – New Mexico oil man Johnny Vega laid out his predicament as his crew hoisted pipes from a well during the biggest oil boom in U.S. history.
The son of a Mexican guestworker, Vega cannot find enough legal workers to meet demand for his oil well service rigs.
There is no shortage of Hispanic and Latino immigrant workers without work permits he could hire in Lea County, New Mexico – the No.2 oil-producing county in the United States.
But Vega says he wants to play by the rules, not least because of a heightened risk of company audits by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under President Donald Trump. As a result, he has equipment that could be generating $700,000 a month standing idle in his yard.
“They’re demanding more rigs, more swabbing units, but you don’t have enough employees,” said Vega, who runs Mico Services with around $17 million in annual revenues. “It’s a lack of a system to get legal workers, to have more of a workforce to pull from.”
But from Bloomberg 9 days earlier:
Shale Jobs Are Drying Up in the Permian Basin
By David Wethe and Catarina Saraiva
October 4, 2019, 3:00 AM PDT
Radio ads touting Permian Basin jobs have all but disappeared
Ripples from downturn in drilling hurts oil-support industries
Barry Marks can hear the Permian Basin slowing down.
It’s right there on country-music station 96.1 FM in Odessa, Texas, where commercials for shale-patch jobs used to fill the airways. Those kinds of radio ads have fallen by two-thirds, said Marks, the general manager for ICA Broadcasting LLC, which runs five stations in the area.
“A lot of those people working in the Permian Basin do not reside here,” Marks said. “So they’re heading home every two weeks. And they may just be staying home.”
It’s almost as if the energy biz has a history of booms and busts, and it’s not a good idea to let in random foreigners during the booms, because many will manage to stay through the busts.