U.S. oil rig count falls by more than 3 percent in a week

The number of rigs actively drilling for oil dropped by 11 this week as the industry continues to scale back its exploration and production efforts during a time of ongoing layoffs and spending cuts.

The oil rig count dipped down to 332 rigs nationwide on Friday, while the overall rig count, including natural gas-seeking rigs, stands at just 420, according to weekly data collected by Baker Hughes. That represents the lowest total count since the oil field services company first began compiling the data in 1944.

Texas lost a cumulative total of just two rigs on the week, including small losses in both the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford shale plays, while Oklahoma and New Mexico lost three rigs each. Texas is still home to 44 percent of the nation’s operating rigs.

The oil rig count alone is now down nearly 79 percent from its peak of 1,609 in October 2014 before oil prices began plummeting.

Analysts have projected the rig count would dip through most of the first half of 2016.

The benchmark price for U.S. oil was down slightly on Friday, but still trading at about than $45.70 per barrel. That’s almost a 75 percent gain from a low of $26.21 a barrel on Feb. 11.

While many companies have stopped actively drilling new wells, it hasn’t stopped them from producing oil from existing wells. So oil production is taking much longer to fall than the rig count.

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