With oil prices dropping, ND could lose thousands of jobs and billions in revenue

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The real-life cost of dropping oil prices isn't limited to lower profits for oil companies.

In North Dakota, jobs are being cut and the state has to rethink its budget plans, as oil producers scale back in the face of those sagging numbers.

Here's what's happening, and what impact it could have.

Low prices means less activity in the field

The Department of Mineral Resource's most recent industry figures, released Thursday, show the price for sweet crude on March 12 was $31 a barrel – which, outside of a brief stint this past January, is the lowest it's been since 2009.

Going down along with that price is the number of rigs in operation – from 181 in December, to 160 in January, 133 in February, and just 111 on March 12. That's the lowest number in nearly five years.

The report says the low oil prices is the "biggest driver behind the slow-down," as operators pause the creation of new rigs to avoid producing a huge amount of oil at a time when the amount people will pay for it is so low.

In addition, the Star Tribune says consistently low oil prices could trigger a tax break for hydraulic fracturing – so companies that specialize in the method are delaying work but holding on to workers, expecting a big rush come June when the savings could kick in.

The impact

Of course, if work is being postponed, that means less workers are needed.

According to The Forum, Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said 800 full-time jobs have been cut already by operators – and with more cuts expected, the final tally could be 3,000-4,000 jobs lost.

State officials are expecting that automatic tax break to become reality this summer. It would mean companies don't have to pay an extraction tax for two years, Valley News Live explains.

All that money the state could get, but likely won't? It's in the billions of dollars, North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger told the station.

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