Despite stubbornly high unemployment in most areas of the nation's economy, the oil and gas sector is suddenly adding jobs in droves. High oil prices and the economic recovery are providing fresh incentive to pursue new projects from Texas to Iraq.

On the hunt for talent are major oil companies as well as lesser-known engineering firms, in a sweeping effort that recalls previous boom cycles and is likely to bring more jobs to Houston and the entire state.

“We’re definitely back in heavy growth mode,” said Billy Stein, recruiting manager for Aker Solutions, a Norwegian engineering and construction company with offices in Houston.

Stein is one of many industry recruiters who converged on Houston for the 2011 Offshore Technology Conference, which wrapped up today at Reliant Park.

This year's OTC attracted more than 70,000 engineers and other technical professionals, and was tailor-made for companies looking to fill vacant positions — and recruiters came ready to hire.

via Fuel Fix » OTC 2011: Energy industry has an abundance of job openings.

The renewed interest in hiring comes after some lean years for the industry, marked by recession, downsizing and cautious predictions of the future. This also bodes very well for Lufkin Industries, which makes oil well pumping units, among other things.