Growth in the U.S. labor sector gave oil prices a lift in Thursday trading despite a string of dismal fourth quarter reports from leading energy companies. The price for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude oil benchmark, gained about a half percent from the previous close to trade for $44.70 for the March contract. Oil prices are struggling to erase last year’s second half decline, trading down about 14 percent since the beginning of the year. Oil prices tumbled in Wednesday trading after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in a weekly status update that U.S. crude oil inventories were at their highest levels since the early 1980s. Oil markets are tilted heavily toward the supply side in part because of increasing production in […]