Landmen Losing Work, Cannot Draw Unemployment

Thursday, January 29th 2009, 5:30 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- In Oklahoma, less than five percent of the state's workforce is out of a job.

Overall, Oklahoma is the lowest in the region, but the unemployment number doesn't account for the self-employed, including those who working in the oil and gas industry.

With prices down, they are finding it hard to make ends meet.

"You see it go up two cents, get excited, then go down four cents," landman Ben Poe said.

Poe keeps a close eye on what's happening in the oil and gas industry because his livelihood depends on it, but these days work is hard to come by.

"A lot of companies don't want to drill because it's too expensive," Poe said. "They're not hiring people like me and other landmen to do research because there's not reason."

Poe is among many other landmen out of work.

"I know just amongst my group of friends that there are a majority of us that are laid off," Poe said.

Oklahoma's unemployment numbers are on the rise, and the number could be larger if the self-employed were accounted for.

"If it follows the trend we've seen for other states around and the nation as a whole, that's probably the direction is going to go," said John Carpenter of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

The self-employed, like Poe, cannot collect unemployment benefits.

"Since I work for myself and been a contract landman, I can't necessarily pay myself unemployment since I'm unemployed," Poe said.

Poe said he will continue looking for work.

"Calling anybody I can to see if there is work to do," Poe said.

Poe doesn't foresee the price of oil and gas going up for at least another eight months. He doesn't want to get out of the business, but has a degree in marketing and public relations to fall back on.

The Oklahoma employment security commission also gathers unemployment numbers for the counties, which will be released next week.