Despite moves back above $50 per barrel for oil, North Dakota rig count holding more or less steady at historic lows. North Dakota is the No. 2 oil producer in the United States behind Texas. Photo by Lilac Mountain/Shutterstock
BISMARCK, N.D., June 6 (UPI) -- North Dakota energy trajectory shifted direction, losing rigs after showing a dramatic increase during the last week in May, state data for Monday show.
North Dakota reports 25 rigs in active service as of Monday, a decline of four from early last week. Though back above the $50 mark by early Monday, last week saw crude oil prices moving lower after a string of data showed weak conditions persisted in the U.S. and European economies.
On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the number of people without a job declined by 484,000 to 7.4 million, though that level has stayed relatively unchanged since August. At 3.2 percent, North Dakota has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the nation, though that that level is up from the 2.7 percent reported in December.
For mining, a sector that includes the state oil and gas industry, the unemployment rate is around 17.2 percent, better than the 18.6 percent rate reported in December.
Lower crude oil prices means energy companies have less capital to invest in exploration and production. North Dakota's rig count, a metric that provides a loose barometer for the health of the state oil and gas sector, has been steady in the mid- to upper-20s range for several weeks.
Data provided last week from oil field services company Baker Hughes show a net increase in the number of rigs in service in the United States for the week ending June 3. Alaska, New Mexico and Texas were the only three states with active drilling programs to show an increase in rig numbers, while Louisiana, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania were the only three states to show a decline from the previous week.
Monday's rig count ties a record low set in July 2005. The all-time low point for rigs in North Dakota is zero.
State data show oil production in March, the last full month for which figures are available, at 1.11 million barrels per day, a decline of about 1 percent from February. Natural gas production, however, reached an all-time high for the state last month at 1.7 million cubic feet per day.