HOUSTON (AP) _ The number of oil and gas rigs operating in the United States dropped by 7 this week to 704, Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday.

During the same week a year ago, there were 757 rigs operating nationwide.

Of the rigs running this week, 406 were exploring for natural gas and 290 for oil. Eight rigs were listed as miscellaneous.

Houston-based Baker Hughes has kept track of the count since 1940. The tally peaked at 4,500 in December of 1981 during the oil boom. It dropped to a record low of 596 in the summer of 1993, exceeding the previous low of 663 in 1986.

The rig count represents the number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas.

Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Texas gained five rigs. New Mexico and Colorado each added one

Oklahoma lost seven. Kansas and Louisiana each fell by three. California dropped two.

Wyoming, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Michigan were unchanged.