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Carlsbad struggling amid thriving COVID, ailing oil industry

Lunch time at Guadalupe Mountain Brewing Company, in Carlsbad, shortly before a November emergency health order ended indoor dining statewide. To create social distance, fewer tables were available.

CARLSBAD, N.M. — On an unseasonably hot afternoon in early November, Amber and David Templeton, who worked as crane and rigging operators, were packing their trailer to leave Carlsbad for good. Weeks earlier, their teenage son had gotten sick with COVID-19 and was too sick to travel, but he’d now recovered enough to hit the road back to Houston, their hometown.

They hoped to get a new gig once they arrived, but they weren’t optimistic: The Texas oil and gas industry had taken a huge hit during the pandemic, shedding nearly 40,000 jobs in the first half of the year — which meant the prospects there could be grim. But the prospects in New Mexico were even grimmer.

“It sucks right now,” David Templeton fumed as he washed the sleek black-and-chrome Harley-Davidson he bought during the boom, when workers like him were flush with money.