HOUSTON (AP) – The number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the United States fell by 38 this week to 1,005.

Of the rigs running nationwide, 790 were exploring for natural gas and 204 for oil, Houston-based Baker Hughes Inc. reported Thursday. A total of 11 were listed as miscellaneous.

A year ago, the rig count stood at 1,815. The U.S. count is down roughly 50 percent since the end of August as weak energy demand has hampered oil-field activity.

Oil prices peaked at almost $150 a barrel in July before plunging. Light, sweet crude for May delivery rose nearly 6 percent to settle at $52.24 a barrel Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Nymex was closed for Good Friday.

Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Texas lost 22 rigs, Colorado lost five, Oklahoma lost four, Alaska lost three, North Dakota and California each lost two and New Mexico lost one.

Louisiana added five rigs, Arkansas gained one and Wyoming was unchanged.

Baker Hughes has tracked rig counts since 1944. The tally peaked at 4,530 in 1981, during the height of the oil boom. The industry posted several record lows in 1999, bottoming out at 488.


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