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Bankruptcies, foreclosures up in areas where gas, coal employees lost jobs

A year after being laid off by oilfield services giant Halliburton, Sean McGrath says he is in “survival mode.”

“We’re struggling to pay every bill we have,” said McGrath, 50, of West Wheatfield in Indiana County, who is trying to support his wife and four children on about $600 per month in Social Security benefits he gets for an autistic son.

A longtime worker on shallow oil and gas sites, McGrath went to work at Halliburton’s Homer City office in 2010 when dozens of companies rushing into the Marcellus shale needed tens of thousands of workers to drill and frack horizontal wells.

A massive slowdown in shale drilling that began with a collapse in oil prices accelerated this past winter when natural gas hit 17-year lows. The downturn has prompted layoffs from producers to service companies, leaving some families struggling to pay their bills as unemployment benefits run out or because new jobs don’t pay enough.

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