A new report warns that 8,700 more jobs in the Canadian energy sector could be lost if oil prices drop below US$50 per barrel.

Enform, a firm that researches labour market trends in the Canadian energy industry, has released a study showing the oilpatch lost 52,500 direct jobs between 2015 and 2016 “along with thousands of indirect jobs,” the Financial Post has reported.

The study also shows that plans by oil and gas companies to rehire laid-off workers could be delayed until 2018 and “further restructuring will occur,” leading to 8,700 jobs losses if West Texas Intermediate oil prices fall well below US$50 per barrel.

Enform estimates that direct job losses in 2015 and 2016 equated to a 25 percent decrease in the total number of people working directly in the oil patch – and the industry is not expected to recover all of those jobs, even if oil prices rebound.

“While the industry is on a path to some job recovery, even with some retirements the industry is not expected to fully regain all of the jobs it lost in the last two years,” Cameron MacGillvray, Enform’s president and CEO, said in a release.

The study also shows that if oil prices stabilize or rise, “a modest five-year job recovery will begin in 2017,” Howes said. Enform puts the total number of new direct jobs over the next five years at 17,000 people, which is just a third of the jobs lost.