Need a Job? Move to Oklahoma

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted August 16, 2012

If you could choose between working in the oil sector for rich rewards or traditional service-sector jobs, which would you choose? Most people, aware of the ongoing (and indeed, burgeoning) shale boom would simply pick the former. And that’s exactly why in Oklahoma, prisons, gas stations, and many restaurants and shops do not have enough staff to keep things running.

The problem is especially acute in oil towns like Woodward, home of the Anadarko Basin, where several oil and gas companies employ almost everyone interested in a job, but with scarce housing, all other sectors suffer for applicants.

The problem is so bad that the minimum-security state prison in Fort Supply had eight escaped inmates since January. Little surprise when oil field jobs begin at around $20 an hour, but a correctional officer would make $11.82 starting out.

The state is one of several that, in recent times, has experienced an economic boom thanks to the shale revolution; other states experiencing similar circumstances include North and South Dakota.

Oklahoma has the fourth-lowest unemployment rate in the country, with current figures hovering around 4.7 percent. The jobs are there if you go looking for them, but at what cost to other vital sectors?

The oil and gas sector, meanwhile, is burgeoning, with companies like Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK), Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI), and Halliburton (NYSE: HAL) still looking to hire in Woodward and competing with the local businesses that are scaling back hours to compensate for a lack of workers and offering bonuses to draw staff.

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