A recent surge in coronavirus cases is rekindling economic anxieties in North Dakota, where wildly fluctuating oil prices and recent drops in production threaten to leave the state’s finances in fresh disarray.
Six months after the state registered its first confirmed infection, roughly 80 percent of North Dakota’s drilling rigs remain offline and thousands of local workers are still out of a job, cutting deeply into the state’s ability to refine oil and mine hundreds of millions of dollars from the natural resources that flow deep within its borders.
For months, low oil prices have contributed to the slowdown, as a global decline in demand made it financially unfeasible for refiners in North Dakota to continue tapping new wells. Another blow came Tuesday: an unexpected 7.6 percent dip in U.S. benchmark prices that sent economic shock waves worldwide.
The fluctuations could not have come at a worse time for North Dakota, which has also emerged as one of the country’s most concerning coronavirus hot spots, with a nation-leading 34 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents, according to a Washington Post analysis of state data.