HOUSTON - Gas prices are expected to surge to their highest levels in five years and many laid off energy workers hope their futures also look up in the new year.

“I’m looking at all the options just to pay the bills,” said laid off worker Mike Brown back in September, when his Montrose townhome went on the market thanks to his unemployment.

“I’ve rented a home outside Houston a little bit,” said Brown. He told us this week that he recently joined a deep sea diving company.

“The last couple of months of 2016, we saw a lot of folks getting interviews and some of them getting jobs,” said Kevin Leaverton with the Energy Job Search Team. Leaverton helps lead the group which meets weekly in a conference room at Chapelwood United Methodist Church.

“Folks getting together and talking about their job search and giving each other advice and other tips and ideas and suggestions,” said Leaverton. He says many anticipated the price of oil would start to rise in 2016 and the outlook is that it will go up even more.

Prices for U.S. light crude oil already hit an 18-month high of $55.25 per barrel Tuesday, the first trading day of 2017.

According to a recent Reuters poll of industry experts, oil prices will gradually rise toward $60 a barrel by the end of the new year.

“And that’s going to provide an economy, I think, that will allow a lot of these folks to get back to work,” said Leaverton. “There are a lot of folks out there in the Houston area that are currently in transition.”

The Energy Job Search Team meets every Tuesday from 10:00a-Noon at Chapelwood UMC at 11140 Greenbay St, Houston, TX 77024.