Job losses, well shut-ins, and bankruptcies have replaced the praise surrounding the shale oil boom that greatly enhanced America’s energy independence and gave President Trump a reason to tout energy dominance. Now, the federal government is mulling over ways to help the industry curb its losses amid historically low prices and little chances of their improvement anytime soon. And the crisis will have much wider repercussions.
The trough of the oil industry cycle always harms the broader economy, usually on a regional level. During the last crisis, for example, once-thriving towns in Texas and New Mexico shrunk as mass layoffs dealt a blow to the local economies. This is bound to repeat again and already is: the Wall Street Journal reports state economies from Wyoming to Alaska, Oklahoma, and North Dakota are taking a hit from the oil industry’s crisis.
According to the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry in the United States supports as many as 10.3 million jobs and generates close to 8 percent of gross domestic product. This is, of course, nowhere near the over 50 percent that oil makes up in the Saudi GDP, but it is a portion sizeable enough to suggest that a crisis in the oil industry could have a ripple effect on the national economy. The question is, how strong this ripple effect would be.
According to a Goldman Sachs analyst, it has the potential to be quite strong. “Typically, oil price fluctuations have a small aggregate impact on U.S. growth, with roughly offsetting effects from the energy capex and consumption channels,” Paul Choi wrote in a note cited by Axios. “However, the sharp rise in the likelihood of bankruptcies in the energy sector and spending constraints due to the virus suggest that the decline in oil prices might be a larger drag on growth this time.”
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