Oil Pares Losses on Heels of Jobs Data

Oil prices pared losses Friday on better-than-expected U.S. employment data but held lower as worries about a global glut of oil continued to weigh on the market.

The U.S. added a seasonally adjusted 321,000 jobs last month, the strongest month of hiring since January 2012, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a gain of 230,000.

Light, sweet oil for January delivery recently traded down 25 cents, or 0.4%, to $66.56 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up from as low as $66.03 a barrel before the report's release.

Brent, the global benchmark, recently traded down 26 cents, or 0.4%, at $69.38 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.

Higher employment can lead to stronger demand for petroleum products, particularly gasoline, as more commuters drive to work.

"Confidence is going to build--more people are going to be out there using energy" in the U.S.," said Carl Larry, director of oil and gas for Frost & Sullivan. However, he said, "oil prices keep going down because the rest of the world is not getting that kind of demand."

Oil futures have fallen to multiyear lows in recent months as strong supply growth has outpaced moderate demand.

Brent prices slid to a more-than-four-year low Thursday after Saudi Arabia lowered the price for its oil in the U.S., indicating that the country is focused on maintaining its market share in a low-price environment rather than cutting production to reduce the global surplus of crude.

"With so much supply in the market, especially the market of [the first quarter of 2015] where balances suggest an even greater oversupply, something has to give," research firm JBC Energy said in a note. Saudi "crude will have to be at bargain prices if it wants to remain competitive in an oversupplied market."

Norway's Statoil ASA said Friday that it would idle three oil-drilling rigs for longer than previously planned.

January reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, recently fell 1.28 cents, or 0.7%, to $1.7820 a gallon.

January diesel fell 0.56 cents, or 0.3%, to $2.1121 a gallon.

Kjetil Malkenes Hovland contributed to this article.