Oil prices have been sinking for months. And while that’s good news for most Americans, what happens to towns like Williston, N.D., that have built an entire economy around the oil industry?The drop in crude prices, while beneficial for drivers, has already cost thousands of oil jobs. Schlumberger (SLB) was among several companies to take a hit, laying off 9,000 people last week.”They said things aren’t good, that oil prices are low, and they aren’t going to be drilling as many wells,” said John Roberts, who was recently laid off as a crew van driver for Schlumberger. “They gave me 24 hours to leave my house.”Roberts, who was given housing by the company, is now staying on his friend’s couch. All his belongings are packed in his car. He’s not leaving Williston though, and is looking for a new job so he can continue sending money back to his wife and four kids in Liberia. John Roberts lost his job to falling oil prices.Roberts is the first of what many fear will be waves of layoffs in the U.S. oil patch as firms respond to the recent and largely unexpected plunge in crude prices.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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