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Here come the oil company cutbacks

While U.S. consumers and businesses are in a holiday mood over the dramatic tumble of oil and gasoline prices, the companies that produce and supply that oil are finding themselves in a pinch.

Crude oil fell during Monday trade to less than $63 a barrel, the lowest level in more than five years, and it has dropped about 35 percent since June, boosted in large part by the North American shale oil and natural gas boom. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports U.S. proved oil reserves increased for a fifth straight year in 2013, while the nation's proved natural gas reserves rose 10 percent and are currently at an all-time high.

Add to that equation OPEC's recent decision to maintain its current level of oil production, and you have a lot of oil on the market -- and a lot of companies struggling to stay cost-efficient.

Plunging gas prices could hurt U.S. energy bo... 02:47

On Monday, ConocoPhillips (COP) announced plans to cut back its 2015 capital projects budget to $13.5 billion, a decrease of approximately 20 percent compared to this year. The Houston-based company says those reductions reflect, in part, a "deferral of spending" on unconventional North American drilling projects.

And on Sunday, BP (BP) said it was suspending some projects and giving many of its mid-level managers the pink slip as it copes with falling oil prices. The oil industry's rank-and-file employees, especially those workers directly involved in production, will also feel cutbacks.

"A vast majority of the jobs created in the oil industry are from wells being drilled or rehabilitated," oil and gas consultant Morris Burns told CBS affiliate KOSA in Odessa, Texas, "and if they're not drilling, the jobs go away."

While a variety of expert forecasts disagree about just how long the current North American energy boom will last, some industry analysts say the current oil glut isn't the only pressure the big oil companies are up against.

"I think it's important to recognize that the industry was facing challenges, especially on the cost side, well before this decline in oil prices began about six months ago," Lysle Brinker, director of energy company transaction research at IHS Energy, told CBS MoneyWatch.

Brinker says oil companies are dealing with a "fairly rapid escalation" of costs on both the operating and capital sides of their business, while also dealing with the rising costs of labor and raw materials, near-constant geopolitical volatility and other variables.

"So there's been a much greater focus over the past year to reduce costs, to streamline operations, to make the corporations more efficient by cutting expenses," he noted.

In terms of what this all means for consumers, Brinker was pretty straightforward.

"Enjoy [the lower oil and gas prices] while you can, because you never know when the market's going to turn around again," he said. "And just given the geologic realities of oil decline over time, there's going to be more boom-and-bust cycles ahead. That's just the nature of the business, and I don't think that's going away."

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