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Recent oil and gas layoffs may be indicator of things to come in 2020

A UH energy expert says the new year may be challenging as companies adjust to changing market.

HOUSTON — Layoffs in Houston’s biggest industry this year could be a sign of things to come in 2020.

That’s according to an expert who tracks oil and gas ups and downs.

We heard from a number of former employees of Houston-based Cogent Energy Services who said they were laid off just before Thanksgiving from a facility in Orange Grove, Texas.

“Still haven’t gotten my last paycheck,” said laid-off worker John Moehr.

Moehr, who has decades of energy industry experience, is also a cancer patient.

But he told us from his home near Corpus Christi that he was more concerned about former coworkers.

"A lot of those guys have got young kids, stuff like that," Moehr said. "I’m sure they’re trying to figure out how to keep food on the table and a roof over their head.”

Cogent did not responded to our voicemails, emails or an in-person visit to a building on Westheimer.

That's where we learned the company’s senior vice president for legal had an office.

"It’s going to be a bleak holiday season for many oil field employees,” said University of Houston Energy Fellow Ed Hirs.

Hirs predicted similar predicaments in 2020 based, in part, on an oil oversupply, ongoing trade war, and resulting impact on prices.

"And, to be fair, everyone in oil and gas is an optimist," Hirs said. "So you postpone layoffs until the last possible minute.”

A number of Houston companies tied to the oil and gas industry have reportedly laid off hundreds of workers so far this year.

Hirs believes many of them may be adjusting to life with leaner payrolls.

"Certainly, we’re going to have to go forward with a lower level of activity for the next couple of years,” Hirs said.

Recently laid off employees like John Moehr will have to try and get by until things pick up.

"Well, I just got my first unemployment check," Moehr said, "which ain’t much.”

KHOU 11 checked with the Texas Workforce Commission about Cogent’s apparent layoffs, but companies are not required to report them unless 50 employees or more are impacted.

We’ll let you know if and when the company responds.


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