Weld County looks to oil and gas as it struggles to recover
Weld County is the only Denver metro area still struggling to recover from the pandemic downturn, a new analysis shows, in large part because of the slow rebound of Colorado's oil and gas industry.
State of play: Colorado's employment figures exceeded pre-pandemic levels at 117% as of September. But Weld County and its hub Greeley — the state's oil and gas capital — restored just 57% of its jobs, the Denver Post reports.
- "Just prior to the pandemic, Weld County was really booming with oil and gas development," said Don Warden, the county's finance director. They "dropped to almost nothing there in the pandemic."
By the numbers: The county posted about 8,000 oil and gas jobs (categorized as mining) in early 2020, federal labor statistics show. That shrunk to 4,649 at the same point in 2021 and remains suppressed at 4,984 at the start of 2022.
- The severance tax revenue the county received from oil and gas production likewise tumbled from $3.3 million in 2020 to $142,000 in 2021.
The intrigue: The same problem that sent the local economy downward is being viewed as its helping hand in the months ahead.
- The high price of oil allowed severance tax to spike to $6 million this year.
- The local economy posted 2.9% growth in September compared to a year prior.
- And the 21 drilling rigs operating in October matched pre-pandemic levels.
Of note: Occidental, the largest oil producer by volume in the state, announced Thursday that it restarted a rig in Weld County now that the state has sped up its permitting process. The rig had been temporarily relocated to Texas, the Denver Business Journal reports.
Yes, but: Industry experts caution that oil and gas production levels are not likely to see a huge spike amid consolidations and a focus on paying debt and boosting shareholder returns.
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