Daniel Young-Dearing is optimistic about life ahead in the wake of layoffs in the oil field.
As far as birthdays go, this one is pretty glum for newly turned 27-year-old Gillette native Daniel Young-Dearing. His morning has begun with a trip to the Gillette Workforce Services where he sat waiting for his turn to use the phone to call the unemployment office in Casper to figure out why he’s unable to log in to his account from home.
Last Friday, he was laid off from his job on an oil/methane rig. He’d been with the company for over two years but has been in the oil field for nearly a decade having taken his first job straight out of high school.
He shrugged. What can you do?
They’d pretty much seen the layoffs coming when oil prices had dropped nearly overnight earlier this month as Saudi Arabia and Russia saturated the market with low-priced crude. Out of his company’s five rigs, only one is still operating out in the field.
“No sense getting down about it,” he said. He’s been through this before. His company has promised to bring the crew back as soon as they have work again, but he’s not sure he can wait that long. He might start looking around for another job in the interim. Maybe construction, he thought, since it’s the right season.
In the meantime, he’s planning to enjoy the rest of his birthday. He’s hoping his wife will cook him steak, or better yet, salmon. He grimaced. If it’s salmon, he’ll have to cook it, he said with a laugh, but he’s crossing his fingers for homemade red velvet cake, too. Better yet, German chocolate. Either way, the day will entail a couple Disney movies at home with their three young children. That part’s been nice, anyway, he said. Spending more time with his family.
He watched the woman ahead of him hang up the phone and took his cue. A couple more people waited patiently at the half-dozen round tables in the Gillette Workforce Center office, staring down at the piles of paperwork in front of them.
They’ve been keeping busy, said Workforce Center Manager Rick Mansheim, glancing around the room. Despite mandatory closures, their office has been allowed to remain open with no more than eight people in the room at one time. For this reason, Mansheim encourages people to call instead of visit because they can do everything over the phone that they can in person and can work people through the various tasks on their computers or phones at home, he said.
Between the hundred or so laid-off temp and full-time workers from Buckskin and Peabody Energy’s North Antelope Rochelle mines earlier in March, coupled with recent layoffs in the oil field and service and retail industries, Mansheim and his team are seeing record numbers. In an average week, Mansheim said they might see between 40-50 people. In the past few weeks, those numbers have skyrocketed from 300 people two weeks ago to 200 over the past week.
Along with helping out-of-work residents file unemployment claims – including lesser claims for part-time workers who have had their hours cut – they also provide help with resumes, job placement and even interviewing, which for now, they’re restricted to doing over the phone. They even have some limited funds on hand for job training if someone is interested in changing careers.
Despite the layoffs, they still have plenty of available job listings on their website, Mansheim said, primarily in the trucking and grocery retail industries but also for skilled positions at local mines. Beginning today at 3 p.m., they will kick off their first of five online webinars, specifically geared to help recently laid-off workers.
If Mansheim has one bit of advice for anyone filing an unemployment claim, it is to not lose their government-issued PIN required for logging in to their account.
“You can reset your password if you forget it, but not your PIN,” he warned. “The only way to get it is over the phone and that can take a while.”
Short of tattooing it on their arm, he joked, people need to make sure they write it down and keep it handy.
Sherry, who asked just to use her first name, is one of the those laid-off restaurant workers. She waits tables at Applebee’s. Right now, the restaurant has drastically cut hours for curb-side to-go orders and limited shifts to those who need the money most. Sherry’s husband still has work as a UPS driver, so they’ll be okay for now, she said. Plus, unlike many individuals and families throughout the U.S., Sherry and her husband have built up a nice nest egg from their savings.
“We were saving up for a rainy day,” she said, “and I’d definitely say it’s raining.”
She feels fortunate to be in a position to be able to help out her family. And though she said she’s never voted for, nor has she ever particularly liked, President Trump, she thinks he’s doing the right thing, as is Governor Gordon in shutting things down in Campbell County and Wyoming and encouraging people to self-isolate.
“With something like this,” she said, nodding, “I think he’s doing the right thing. This will pass, and we’ll be okay.”
Though she thinks these temporary measures may have irrevocably changed the way people think about and see their lives, she wonders if those workers telecommuting from home will care to go back to their offices once the ban is lifted. And now that people have become used to take-out and having meals delivered at home, she wonders if they’ll be as eager to go out to eat again.
“Who knows?” she said. “I think this may have changed some of our priorities.”
Also waiting for the phone Tuesday morning was another recently laid off oilfield employee. Dave Lunsford was laid off last week from his trucking job with Oedekoven Well Service. He’s been with the company for the past seven-to-eight years and values both the job and the company. The 52-year-old said he’s planning to wait it out until the coronavirus pandemic is over and oil prices are on the rise again.
It’s just a matter of time, he said, and in the meantime, he and his wife will be okay. She’s a stay-at-home grandmother who watches their grandchildren.
They’ve never had much money, he said, so this is no big deal to them. He’s originally from Michigan but he and his family have been in Gillette for the past 12 years.
Like Sherry, Lunsford agrees with both Governor Gordon and President Trump’s response to the pandemic. As far as oil booms and busts go, he shrugged, well, he’s used to it. If worse comes to worse, he’s got his CDL and full endorsements and will just find another trucking job if oil doesn’t rebound.
“We’re hoping we can see oil prices go up again and get this coronavirus under control,” he said.
He and his family are used to riding out hard times, he said, and they’re just glad to be healthy.
“We’ve always been poor,” he said with a shrug, “so we know how to survive on nothing.”
The Gillette Workforce Center will be hosting the following Laid Off Worker Webinars (50 slots available per session):
Tuesday, March 31: 3 – 4 p.m.
Thursday, April 2: 5 – 6 p.m.
Tuesday, April 9: 3 – 4 p.m.
Thursday, April 16: 5 – 6 p.m.
Tuesday, April 21: 3 – 4 p.m.
Click here to register or call (307) 682-9313 for questions or to inquire about services.