ShareThis Page
Business Headlines

Once wedded to oil, Houston economy carries on despite bust

| Monday, April 4, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
In this Feb. 26, 2016, photo, standing in a supply closet, Shawn Baker talks about her new career in Houston. After Baker was laid off from a job building power units for offshore oil rigs she went into business for herself with an offbeat idea called Tantrums, a paid service that lets customers take out their frustrations by smashing plates, televisions and other objects in various rooms with sledgehammers, bats and pipes.
In this Feb. 26, 2016, photo, standing in a supply closet, Shawn Baker talks about her new career in Houston. After Baker was laid off from a job building power units for offshore oil rigs she went into business for herself with an offbeat idea called Tantrums, a paid service that lets customers take out their frustrations by smashing plates, televisions and other objects in various rooms with sledgehammers, bats and pipes.

HOUSTON — Amanda Salazar watched for a year as colleagues at the Houston-based oil rig manufacturer where she worked lost jobs, victims of the latest oil bust. She realized it was time for a change before she too got a pink slip.

So Salazar left her job as a software trainer with National Oilwell Varco for a similar position at a hospital. Even if the oil market turned around immediately, she reasoned, it might take 18 months before the industry picked up again.

For generations, anyone who lived in Houston long enough was sure to feel the pain of an oil bust. But 21st century Houston isn't like its oil-dependent predecessor. The city now has a more diversified economy, plus help from a wave of construction at its petrochemical plants. Even as the price of oil has plummeted, Houston has carried on, maintaining a jobless rate of 4.7 percent in February, slightly better than the national average.

“Houston in the broadest sense is going to do fine. It's the individual stories and the individual companies that are going to hurt and suffer,” said Patrick Jankowski, regional economist for the Greater Houston Partnership, a local business group.

For the 38-year-old Salazar, her move proved prescient. Her old department was eliminated on March 11, the same day she started at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital. The downturn resulted in about 50,000 layoffs last year of Houston-area oil and gas workers.

The oil downturn has hit many Houston-based oil companies hard, including: ConocoPhillips, which reported in February that it lost $3.45 billion for the fourth quarter of 2015, and Marathon Oil Corp., which reported a loss of $2.2 billion for 2015.

At the same time, Houston has expanded well beyond oil. In the 1980s, the city's economy was 84 percent dependent on oil and energy for its gross domestic product. That figure has dropped to about 44 percent.

Health care, construction and education added more than 65,000 jobs in 2015.

Shawn Baker, 45, was laid off last year from a job building power units for offshore oil rigs. She had trouble finding a new job, so she went into business for herself with an offbeat idea called Tantrums, a paid service that lets customers take out their frustrations by smashing plates, televisions and other objects in various rooms with sledgehammers, bats and pipes.

Her new business started off slow but recently picked up, and Baker said she's happy she took the plunge.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me