Downturn in Oil Employment Has Many in Bakken Worried

The falling price of oil is leading to production dropping in the oil rigs—in fact, a newspaper in the Bakken, the Williston Herald, recently termed the rate of shutdown of many rigs a “free fall” while describing the plunge, from roughly 200 last year to around 68 currently.

Many oil workers in the Bakken are affected by the drop in rig count. In a region that has seen a significant influx of oil workers in previous years, the amount of layoffs is significant. That, in turn, is having a significant effect on workers’ decisions to stay in the Bakken or to look for work elsewhere.

Some, like a South Dakota native profiled in the Williston Herald’s piece, found construction work elsewhere. Some are overjoyed to be leaving the Bakken for warmer weather, leaving behind the sky-high prices and tough life that went along with the solid paychecks in good times. Some, who have been laid off the rigs, are in economic turmoil, unable to afford life in the Bakken but unsure of where, exactly, they will end up.

Their decisions reflect uncertainty about the future of the Bakken. While many think that the recent shutdown of rigs is a blip in an otherwise strong growth rate, reporter Elizabeth Hackenburg notes that “despite the optimism that local business and economic leaders project about the outlook for local oil field-related jobs, there are a number of people in the region who are facing a decision - stick it out and hope for the best, or leave an area known for years as a land of opportunity and start over somewhere else.”

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