Mixed messages


Yesterday, the New York Times had a swell interactive map that showed unemployment rates in every county in the nation. It showed that, with the exception of Michigan, the West is getting whacked by job losses harder than just about anyone else. California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington are all awash with high unemployment rates.

The exception is energy-intensive counties -- that is, the ones with lots of drill rigs protruding from the landscape. They seem to have better weathered the economic storm. Northwestern Colorado, southeastern New Mexico, Sublette and Sweetwater counties in Wyoming, and San Juan County in New Mexico -- all gas and oil hotspots -- have unemployment rates well below the national average.

At least for now. But signs are on the horizon that even the gasfield communities may face a bumpy ride. Just in Colorado, drill counts are down 46 percent. And the Grand Junction Sentinel has the news that Halliburton has laid off "tens of employees" and:


But as workers arrived at Halliburton’s Grand Junction offices today, at 32 and D roads, many employees were told their services were no longer needed. Halliburton had a contingent of armed security guards on hand greeting employees as they arrived. A Grand Junction police officer was also stationed nearby. Some who were laid off were upset by the show of force, but they also said they understood the reasoning behind their layoff.

Predictably, some folks waving signs near Halliburton said the "reasoning" was not the economy, but Colorado's new regulations on drilling. To which, the only reasonable reply is: "It's the economy, stupid."

Neither regulations nor the economy are slowing some gas company plans, though: Williams Energy, one of the biggest players in Western Colorado, says it will forge ahead with drilling at its previously planned rates. Meanwhile, the Casper Star Tribune editorial board told its readers that the recession's not all that bad in Wyoming.

Easily said. But as one commenter on that story noted, that optimism is not supported by what's happening on the ground.

" Tell that blather to all the laid off folks in the oil patch. It's easy to sit behind a desk and preach how rosy things are . Go out the door into the real world , and you will see a different view. "



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