WJTV News Channel 12 - Oil slump threatens easy life of affluent Norwegians

By MARK LEWIS

Associated Press

STAVANGER, Norway (AP) - Losing his job on a Norwegian oil rig meant more to Kristoffer Sandberg than saying goodbye to a high salary. It has caused a shift down in lifestyle and expectations, something an increasing number of people in this small oil-rich country are facing.

After a decade of an oil-and-gas boom, plunging energy prices are shaking Norwegians out of a Utopian reverie that guaranteed workers lengthy summer vacations, generous health and social benefits, and allowed them to leave work at 4 p.m. and even earlier on Fridays.

Some of the helicopters that transport workers from the southwestern coastal city of Stavanger - the epicenter of the oil industry - to platforms on the North Sea have fallen silent. Already 10,000 workers have been laid off. It's the start of what economists are predicting will be a long recession in the energy industry, which accounts for 15 percent of Norway's economy, more than half of its exports and 80 percent of the state's income.

The Nordic country is being forced to contemplate a future without the certainties of the past.

"I know that people are envious of these conditions elsewhere in the world. We joke about it sometimes," says Sandberg, a 24-year-old mechanic. "But I don't know how many more people will lose their jobs or how much longer it will be uncertain like this."

Sandberg is selling his new S-Class Mercedes and moving to Singapore to help oversee the construction of a new giant o....

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