But there are some (relatively) bright spots. One is around pricing: crude oil has been trading in the $45 to $50 US range for roughly two months and there's some confidence that the bottom is behind us.
"Looking forward with a reasonable set of assumptions, the market is set to balance in the second half of this year and continue to get better in 2017," said Jackie Forrest, vice-president of energy research with ARC Financial.
Last week, Burgess Energy did a deal with Calgary-based Athabasca Oil, in which it bought a stake in future royalties at the company's oilsands operations for $129 million. Those royalties will only be paid when oil is trading above $75 US a barrel — a price point barely dreamed about these days.
In order for the job market to hit bottom and then stabilize, the U.S. Federal Reserve estimated it would take oil prices holding steady at $50 US a barrel for two or three months. In Canada, it's expected that it will take more time than that for hiring to start.
The oilpatch cut 28,145 direct jobs in 2015, more than 10 per cent of the workforce, according to labour-tracking firm PetroLMI. Many of those cuts were in the service sector, which will take longer to recover than the exploration sector it serves.
"I hope we've seen bottom," said Mark Scholz, head of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors. "Most are expecting that around the $50 range, it's at least stable and we're going to start to see gradual increases from there.
But Philip Verleger isn't convinced. The Colorado-based analyst called $50 oil a mirage caused by the outages; he expects oil to fall back to the mid-$30s in the near term.
Forrest agrees that oil inventories are a problem, as there are an additional 500 million barrels in storage in North America right now than is typical this time of year.
Oil at $50: What life looks like in the oilpatch 2 years after prices plummeted - Business - CBC News