Peabody Energy laid off 50 temporary employees who worked at the North Antelope Rochelle mine (NARM) in southern Campbell County on Thursday, the company confirmed.
"We routinely match staffing levels with production needs and the reduction in temporary workers is consistent with that approach," wrote Charlene Murdock, Peabody director of corporate communications.
The employees worked for Manpower, a temp agency in Gillette, according to the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. The department, along with the Gillette Workforce Center, said lay-offs like this are not uncommon when production slows down.
In 2019, coal production fell 13 percent at NARM compared to the year before, while employment only fell 3 percent there, according to data from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. Rob Godby, energy economist at the University of Wyoming, said it makes sense that employment would need to fall as production drops.
"This reflects the [market's] continuing weakening conditions. Output is going down and they haven't readjusted their workforce. They're getting rid of employees that are easiest to get rid of: the temps," he said, adding the reduction would bring employment down 8 percent from the year before.
Godby added a company might wait to make lay-offs through a financial quarter to see if the production downturn persists. If it's persistent, that's when lay-offs are more likely.
Peabody Energy is the largest U.S. coal producer with three mines in the Powder River Basin.
Four laid-off workers have contacted the Gillette Workforce Center as of today about training opportunities.
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