Tuesday 29 November 2016 1:00 am

Two-thirds of oil and gas firms in the UK have had to cut jobs as low prices continue to haunt industry

Oil and gas workers are still feeling the squeeze from the crash in global oil prices, with two-thirds of the industry cutting staff and the median pay of operators and contractors declining for the first time in at least 22 years, according to a poll.

67 per cent of companies have cut jobs in the last year, according to a survey of the industry by the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce and the Fraser of Allander Institute.

The sector employs 330,000 in the UK, according to industry body Oil and Gas UK. However, the North Sea’s oil and gas industries have been decimated since mid-2014, when oil prices crashed and producers rushed to slash costs.

Read more: Investment into UK oil industry has fallen by £5.8bn this year

In June 2014 the price of Brent crude, the North Sea benchmark, rose above $115 per barrel. Since then the price has fallen below $30 per barrel, before rallying to around the $48 mark.

In the last year operators in the UK have cut their UK workforce by 15 per cent, while contractors have cut seven per cent, according to the survey.

And the picture was barely brighter for those who kept their jobs, with 43 per cent of businesses cutting pay in the face of a glut of labour. Meanwhile only 12 per cent of contractors think they are fully productive, the lowest point since the survey began in 2004.

Read more: No new support for North Sea oil and gas industry in Autumn Statement

However, the survey also found the industry relatively optimistic for the next few years. 90 per cent of the respondents thought that the sector would start to recover within the next two years, as leaner companies poised to take advantage of any growth if prices do rise.

“The green shoots of recovery may be beginning to push through,” said Uisdean Vass, oil and gas partner at law firm Bond Dickinson. “Sadly, this has come at the great cost of many thousands of jobs but companies who have shed staff have simply had to rationalise or die."