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April 2 (Reuters) - The number of rigs drilling for oil in the United States declined by 11 this week to 802, the smallest decline since December, oil services firm Baker Hughes said in its closely watched survey on Thursday.
The data, which was released a day earlier due to the Good Friday holiday, compares with declines of 12 and 41 rigs in the prior two weeks and is a sign the collapse in drilling over the past few months has reached its low point.
After a precipitous drop since October, the U.S. oil rig count is nearing a pivotal level that experts say could begin to dent production, bolster prices and even coax oil companies back to the well pad in the coming months.
Energy producers responded quickly to a steep drop in oil prices over the last six months, idling nearly 800 rigs, or 50 percent, since a peak of 1,609 rigs in October.
With the decline this week, the number of oil rigs has fallen for a record 17th week in a row to the lowest level since 2011, according to Baker Hughes data going back to 1987.
Texas, the state with the most rigs, shed six oil rigs to 464, the lowest count since 2009.
The basin with the biggest decline was the Williston in North Dakota, down six rigs to 91, the lowest since at least 2011, according to data going back to 2011.
Producers started taking less efficient vertical and directional rigs out of service first, but in recent months have also cut the more efficient horizontal rigs used most often in shale production.
Horizontal rigs fell to the lowest since 2010, while vertical rigs fell to the lowest since 1991, according to data going back to 1991. Directional rigs however increased one to 93, the fist increase since late February.
Oil rigs in Canada climbed two to 20, the first increase since mid February.
U.S. natural gas rigs meanwhile fell by 11 to 222, the lowest on record, according to data going back to 1987. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy)