Halliburton list shows layoffs hitting all levels of oil patch

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - A list obtained by Channel 2 Investigates highlights how layoffs in the oil industry have moved well beyond derricks and offshore oil rigs. Low crude prices have prompted companies to lay off thousands of workers.

"There's a lot of fear, the rumor mill is running full time," said Robert Harrold, who was recently laid off from Halliburton.

Harrold said he was a high level member of Halliburton's IT department and was in the middle of a project last week when he was asked to step away from his desk and go to a meeting.

"Middle of working on things and my manager's manager comes by and I'm gone," said Harrold. "I was told just that the oil prices are down and business is hurting."

Harrold said this is the second time he's been laid off from Halliburton. He said he was given two weeks pay; one week for each year he'd been with the company. Harrold said he was surprised that among the papers he was given on his way out was a list showing dozens of positions targeted for layoffs at Halliburton's campus off Bellaire at the Beltway.

The list, dated Feb. 16 of this year, is a small snapshot of the thousands being laid off at Halliburton and other energy companies. The list shows dozens of positions from "recruiting specialist" to "accountant" being cut. The list also shows the ages of those being laid off range from mid 20s to early 60s.

Harrold said he hoped the IT department was safe from these cutbacks, but adds he and his counterparts long suspected this was a potential outcome of falling oil prices.

"Most of us had removed most of the personal stuff from our desks," said Harrold.

When contacted, officials at Halliburton sent Channel 2 a written statement.

"Halliburton continues to make adjustments to its workforce based on current business conditions. We value every employee we have, but unfortunately we are faced with the difficult reality that reductions are necessary to work through this challenging market environment. The impact will be across all areas of Halliburton's operations. Details on specific businesses and locations are competitively sensitive not available," the statement read.

The company then sent a follow up statement, "In this difficult time, Halliburton is committed to ensuring separated employees are treated with dignity and respect. We will also provide impacted employees with information required in compliance with labor law such as the list you have obtained."

University of Houston Energy Economist Edward Hirs said oil prices are not likely to rebound quickly. Hirs said supply is continuing to outpace demand and OPEC is standing fast on not lowering production. However, Hirs said there is a bright spot.

"What we are going to see is a reallocation of the workforce," said Hirs.

Hirs said low oil prices are helping spur other parts of our economy, which should translate into job growth.

"The same type of human capital and entrepreneurial resilience that we see in Texas will show up in new companies and new employment, it's just going to take some time," said Hirs. "We will see economic growth and there will be job creation across the United States, it just may not be as robust here in Houston."

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