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A couple’s boom, busted

Work on the drilling rigs began to slow in November for Claire Cutshaw. By the end of January, she basically waited by the phone.

Money ran dry. The end of the month grew closer.

And so on Monday, the 45-year-old mudlogger resigned from Weatherford International and started to pack.

At first, she did not make much of the slowdown.

Other oilfield workers told her the winter typically gets slower as budgets run out and gas prices drop.

She went on vacation at the beginning of January with her husband, Keith, to visit family in North Carolina.

A paycheck, she figured, would arrive soon.

But it didn’t, even though she said survived a round of layoffs in her division.

“I am a mudlogger at Weatherford — at least I am technically,” Claire Cutshaw said last week, as she prepared to turn in her notice. “But I haven’t worked in two weeks now. I’ve kept in contact with my supervisor: ‘Hey, have you got any jobs coming up? Hey, have you got any jobs coming up?’ And it was ‘No, maybe at the end of the week. No, maybe next week.’ And it’s just not happening.”

A spokeswoman for Weatherford said the company declined to comment “on the current oil price environment nor the details of the reduction in force” or Claire Cutshaw’s case, apart from wishing her “the best in her future endeavors.”

Related: Bankers feel oil price squeeze

But she is one of “thousands” of people in the region facing a job loss as oil and gas companies slam on the breaks to wait for oil prices to rebound, according to observers that include energy analysts, oilmen and the Texas Workforce Commission.

It is near impossible to pin down the exact number of layoffs in recent weeks, let alone workers affected by pay or hour reductions, because most companies do not report such information publicly and in many cases do nothave to file notice with state regulators.

But the Permian Basin is perhaps the hardest hit region in the country even though the cuts in the region were slower to materialize than other areas, said Ben Shattuck, an energy analyst with Wood Mackenzie in Houston.

That is because of the Permian Basin’s rapid expansion of exploration activity through 2014 while other major oil plays that boomed first — the Eagle Ford of south Texas and the Bakken of North Dakota — began to decelerate.

“So you had more rigs coming on, the trajectory was still up,” Shattuck said. “But since the New Year, it’s been a blood bath.”

So far, the struggling and displaced workers have yet to show up en masse at the local Workforce Solutions center, but officials there say they expect a surge in traffic in the coming months. “That’s going to get to be a big deal,” said Remelle Farrar, project director of Workforce Solutions in Odessa, but for now they mostly hear about workers getting hours cut. “Most people spend everything they make and they can’t make it anymore if their hours are getting cut in a hurry.”

People like the Cutshaws.

‘TRYING TO MAKE A BETTER LIFE’

Before Weatherford, Claire Cutshaw spent a previous career as a P.C. technician, running a business in Lubbock for a stint in the late 1990s. More recently she was a medical transcriptionist in North Carolina, where she lived near family…To read more of this story, subscribe to myoaoa.com.

 

This article was written by Corey Paul from Odessa American, Texas and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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