Driven by another week of attrition in the oil-focused Permian Basin, the U.S. rig count fell three units to 244 for the period ending Friday (Aug. 14), according to updated figures from oilfield services (OFS) provider Baker Hughes Co. (BKR).

A four-rig decrease in oil-directed drilling was partially offset by a net increase of one natural gas-directed rig in the United States for the week. The combined U.S. tally finished the week 691 units behind the 935 rigs active in the year-ago period.

Land drilling fell by five units, while one rig was added in the Gulf of Mexico and another in inland waters, according to BKR. An increase of one vertical rig partially offset the departure of four horizontal units.

The Canadian rig count gained seven units overall to finish at 54, versus 142 a year ago. Gains included six oil-directed rigs and one gas-directed.

That left the combined North American rig count at 298 for the week, versus 1,077 at this time last year.

Among major plays, the Permian, located in West Texas and Southeast New Mexico, dropped five rigs during the week, lowering its total to 117. That’s down from 441 a year ago. Elsewhere among plays, the Arkoma Woodford added a rig, while the Ardmore Woodford dropped one, BKR data show.

Broken down by state, Texas dropped four rigs week/week, while New Mexico dropped one. Louisiana posted a net gain of two rigs on the week, increasing its tally to 31, half of the 62 rigs active in the year-ago period.

Turmoil wrought by the global pandemic has upended activity across the energy sector and led to massive layoffs, with staffing forecast to plummet by year’s end to its lowest level in more than a decade.

A recent analysis of the top 50 OFS operators by Rystad Energy found staffing would decline and anticipated revenue per employee also heading south. The analysis tracked the permanent employee count of the OFS operators, including reported permanent employees at year-end. 

Meanwhile, permits for new oil and gas wells rose 25% month/month in July, with “significant” growth in the Permian, but overall activity was down by two-thirds from a year ago, according to Evercore ISI.

The analyst team led by James West each month compiles federal and state permitting data, which provides a window into what future U.S. oil and gas activity may look like. 

The July numbers indicated that “activity is back on the menu,” but the Lower 48 is “very much still on a diet,” as permitting was off 66% from July 2019, West said.