Workers in 'Panic Mode' Over Low Price of Oil
Oil rigs have shut down, leaving well-paid degree-less workers short on options
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 11, 2015 10:52 AM CDT
In this Nov. 22, 2013, file photo, oil workers set the drill on the Centenario deep-water drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico.   (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)

(Newser) – Countries around the world continue to be impacted in various ways from the oil price crash over the last year, and there's one demographic that's definitely feeling the negative effects: oil workers now out of jobs that were "more or less an economic lottery ticket for an American man whose education stopped after high school," the Washington Post reports. Barrels of crude oil that once fetched $110 each plunged as low as $45 a barrel earlier this year and are now hovering around $60 per barrel—an economic reality the Post says has caused oil rigs to shut down and killed 44,000 jobs in the oil and gas drilling industry and related sectors since November, according to the ADP Research Institute. "It was like somebody knocked the wind out of you a little bit," an oil worker from Enid, Okla., tells the paper, explaining how he lost his job with an oil-field construction company during the crash.

This oil and gas industry workforce that's suffering most is made up predominantly of men without college degrees, who can claim more than nine out of 10 jobs in this sector, per the Post. The paper notes these workers were once able to command twice the salary of men in different industries with the same education. A caseworker for an Oklahoma nonprofit tells the Post she recently met someone who was forced to take an $8-an-hour job after previously working a $40-an-hour one, adding, "I see people who are being evicted. I see people who are homeless." There are other industries that pay decent wages for men with only a high school education, the paper notes, including the railroads and power utilities sectors—but they don't have enough open positions to take in all the newly unemployed and haven't enjoyed the same salary growth as the oil industry. (Here's why oil prices have dropped so low.)