March 28, 2017 03:47 PM

On Friday Halliburton confirmed plans to add 2,000 U.S. jobs in the first quarter, saying it is ramping up activity faster than anticipated to try to match the surging oilfield activity, especially in West Texas. The company still has a long way to go to make up for the 35,000 positions it cut over the past two years of the bust, but it's a start.

In a rare operations update call, Halliburton Chairman and CEO Dave Lesar said the company is spending more money now to protect market share and ensure stronger profits in the future. The plan to “frontload as much of the costs as we can” will mean weaker profits short term to better position Halliburton in the future.

“We are coming off of a historic trough, so what we have to add back is almost unprecedented,” Lesar said, warning that its first-quarter earnings won’t be as strong as previously projected.

At the end of the year, Halliburton had 50,000 employees after cutting 35,000 positions over a two-year oil bust. Now, jobs are beginning to return and idled equipment reactivated. Profits will follow later, Lesar said.

The rig count last week rose to 789, up from a low of 404 in May. But because each rig can now drill more wells and each well can produce more oil, Halliburton President Jeff Miller compared current activity to that of 2014, before prices fell. “Nine hundred (rigs) is the new 2,000,” he said.
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