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What Unemployment Is Like

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Oil pump jacks behind a natural gas flare near Watford City, N.D. Oct. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File) Oil pump jacks behind a natural gas flare near Watford City, N.D. Oct. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

In the recent recession, the energy industry was hit hard with job losses. In a two-year span from December of 2014 to last December the number of energy jobs in Oklahoma dropped roughly 35 percent. Many Oklahoma families are still feeling the downturn.

Three years ago, Kevin DeVault would have been getting into his car for his commute from Tulsa to Bartlesville each day for work.

"Even though I had an hour commute each way, I didn't mind, I enjoyed it," said DeVault.

But now, he gets behind the wheel for a ride-sharing company to make extra money to help make ends meet.

"It's not what I really want to do, but it's what I need to do for the time being," he said.

DeVault is originally from New Jersey, but fell in love with Tulsa while visiting a friend in 2001. He stayed, got a degree from the University of Tulsa and ended up with a great job with ConocoPhillips in Bartlesville.

But when the energy industry slumped, DeVault lost his job.

"I think we were one of the first to have layoffs," said DeVault.

After six months of unemployment, DeVault says no one was hiring in the energy industry.

"A lot of fear, anxiety, a lot of depression, just wondering what's next out there for me," DeVault admitted.

For a dad with two young daughters, the tough job market was scary and meant significant lifestyle changes for his family.

"My wife, when I was working at ConocoPhillips, she was a stay-at-home Mom. She's had to go back to work as well," he said.

And Kevin got behind the wheel shuttling others to make extra money.  It gives him the flexibility to free up time for interviews or job fairs. He tries to stay positive.

"I know energy will rebound at some point."

Until it does, DeVault is working on his doctorate degree, looking for work and hoping for the best for everyone unemployed and uncertain about the future.

"I would say don't give up and just have that person in your life who is there for you, supports you and will be there for you.  That really makes a difference," said DeVault.

One thing that is encouraging to DeVault and other Oklahoma families impacted by the energy layoffs.

The sector has added 5,400 jobs in 2017.

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