Shale output charges on as 25,000 Texas jobs go

EXXONMOBIL CEO Rex Tillerson has suggested the US oil rig count halving over the past year may not cut shale oil output as the Texas Workforce Commission confirmed the state lost 25,400 jobs last month alone, leading one JP Morgan analyst to suggest it could be in recession.

Baker Hughes said the US oil rig count has dropped by half over the past year to 734, in line with the 50% drop in crude prices since June.

Tillerson told the IHS CERAWeek energy conference in Houston yesterday that his company, whose shale operations constitute a fraction of its global output as the world's top oiler, had reduced its capital program by about 12%, as opposed to other US shale oil producers who have cut spending by between 25-70%.

"Clearly a significant decline in rig activity did not lead to a sharp drop in gas output. Is that analogous in tight oil? We'll find out," he told the conference.

Using history to offer some lessons for the present, Tillerson recalled how companies idled many gas rigs when prices plummeted in 2008, yet six years later output is higher than ever yet prices are lower than before.

IHS Financial Services vice president and energy analyst Roger Diwan said US output could easily rise by 500,000 barrels per day next year even if spending does not lift from this year's reduced levels.

JP Morgan analyst Michael Feroli said in a report this week that Texas' job losses would be proportionate to the US losing 304,000 jobs - figures, he said, would normally occur only in a recession.

While Texas was diversified, much of its employment was still tied to the energy sector, and Feroli said cuts in energy-related capex alone could slash about 2.7 percentage points off the pace of the state's economic growth in Q1, which he said was "a big hole to get out of to achieve positive growth".

In December, Feroli ruffled a few feathers when he suggested the outlook for Texas was comparable to 1986 when a steep decline in oil prices led to layoffs, a major drop in the real estate market and a banking crisis.

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