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20,000 Layoffs Predicted in North Dakota Due to Low Oil Prices

20,000 layoffs predicted by June

20,000 layoffs predicted by June

One of the happiest surprises American consumers have experienced lately is ridiculously cheap gas, which is now priced at a five-year low.

While consumers whistle while they pump, signs of a bust in the North Dakota oil fields are beginning to show.

See also: University of North Dakota Suspends Basketball Announcer For Saying "Choke Job"

Virtually every major company in the industry has either announced layoffs or remained grimly tight-lipped as the price of a barrel of oil stays stubbornly low. Yesterday CNN talked to Jim Arthaud, who's been involved in the North Dakota oil industry since the 1970s:

In North Dakota, the number of rigs drilling new oil wells dropped from 187 this time last year to 161 this week -- the lowest level in five years.

"My prediction is we're down to 50 rigs by June," said Jim Arthaud, CEO of MBI Energy Services, based in nearby Belfield, N.D.

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But the effects of less drilling are likely to hit the entire area hard. As drilling companies cut back, there will eventually be less work for companies that provide ancillary services like fracking or trucking. "I'd say we'll lose 20,000 jobs by June," said Arthaud.

If this is just a short-term price drop it could be a good thing for North Dakota, letting its overtaxed infrastructure and housing market catch up a bit.

Either way, Minnesota should be thankful it doesn't have to ride the booms and busts of an economy dependent on unpredictable energy markets.

Send news tips to Ben Johnson.