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Halliburton woes cause jitters in North Dakota

Annie Baxter Apr 20, 2015
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Scott Nyberg comes from a Halliburton family. His dad works for the oilfield services provider in North Dakota’s oil patch. So does Nyberg.

And his brother did, too, until recently.  

“It’s unnerving. Made you a little nervous if you were next,” Nyberg says.

Halliburton, one of the nation’s biggest oilfield services providers, took a hit in the first quarter of the year. Its profits dropped $643 million, thanks in part to a massive decline in oil prices, which has slowed demand for Halliburton’s drilling services. Halliburton has responded to the slowdown by cutting 9,000 workers, some in North Dakota, the nation’s second largest oil producer.

Nyberg says Halliburton’s investment in his training soothes some of his fears of a layoff. The firm is sending him from his base in Williston, North Dakota. to Texas, where he’ll spend several months completing a training program. And unlike his brother, Nyberg has a mechanical engineering degree. He hopes that will help him stick around through the company’s cost-cutting.

“There’s still work to be had, and those who can endure and make those cuts and not just go belly up, will make it through,” he says. “And as bad as it is, when it turns around, there will be a mad rush of people to come back.”

But for now, the oilfield slowdown is spooking some workers, like Kevin Groener. He made a stop in Williston during a job scouting trip and quickly caught wind of layoffs around town. So he won’t bring his girlfriend Billy Joe out for a look. They both need work.

“It’s hard when you come out to an area like this and say, ‘Oh it’s all going to be great and fine,’ ” he says. “I don’t think I could grab Billy Joe here and make it great and fine.”

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