Oct. 28–Houma-Thibodaux has posted its first year-to-year gain in oil and gas jobs since a four-year offshore oil bust began, new figures show.
Jobs directly involved with oil and gas production were up by 100 last month compared to September 2017, according to a Louisiana Workforce Commission report released Friday.
Overall, the metro area, comprised of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, gained a net 100 jobs for the month but was down 200 compared to a year ago.
The area’s unemployment rate of 5.1 percent was down from 5.4 percent in August and 5.2 percent in September 2017.
Including ties, Houma-Thibodaux’s unemployment rate ranks 351st among 388 metro areas, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Thirty-four areas have higher jobless rates.
Louisiana’s jobless rate, 5 percent in September, was down from 5.5 percent in August and was the same as September 2017.
The U.S. jobless rate was 3.6 percent last month, down from 3.9 percent in August and 4.1 percent a year ago.
Unlike preliminary data released a week ago, the latest figures are not adjusted for seasonal variations or changes in the workforce that happen around the same time every year.
The area has lost roughly 16,000 jobs — nearly one of every five — since mid-2014 as low crude prices sparked layoffs and work slowdowns throughout the oil industry. The U.S. industry has rebounded along with oil prices, but job growth has been limited mostly to inland shale fields, where drilling is less costly than the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Economists and analysts say that is beginning to change as oil companies drive down the break-even cost of Gulf drilling and oil prices have risen to $70 to $80 a barrel. Louisiana economist Loren Scott, in an annual forecast released last month, estimates the area will gain 700 jobs next year and 2,100 the following year as oil prices rise and offshore drilling picks up.
Here are five trends in the Louisiana Workforce Commission’s latest report:
1. The local workforce continues to shrink.
The area’s civilian labor force, the number of people working or looking for work, has decreased for the month and year. The workforce totaled 87,235 people last month, down just over 1,000 since August and just under 1,900 since September 2017.
The figure is down from 107,577 in August 2014, a 19 percent decline. Since the oil bust began, nearly one of every five people have left Terrebonne and Lafourche, gone back to school or otherwise stopped looking for work. Last month, 82,824 residents were employed and 4,411 were unemployed and looking for work.
2. The area has lost nearly one-third of its oilfield jobs since the bust began, but the numbers are rising slowly.
Jobs directly involved in oil and gas exploration and production have remained nearly steady since April. The total, 5,500, is up 100 for the month and compared to a year ago. And it’s down 2,300, or 29 percent, since August 2014.
The trend is similar for oilfield-service jobs. About 4,800 people held such jobs in September, up 100 for the month and year. The total is down 1,600, or 25 percent, since August 2014.
3. The losses have been worse for shipbuilding and other maritime jobs, but the decline has also slowed.
The local maritime industry employed 3,300 people in September, the same since April but down 100 from a year ago. The industry has shed 2,900 jobs, or 48 percent, since the oil bust began.
4. Local job gains have outpaced losses so far this year.
The area has gained a net 200 jobs since Jan. 1. It lost 1,300 jobs in January, gained 1,300 in February and lost 100 in March. It gained 200 in April and 400 in May, lost 400 in June and gained 300 in July and lost 300 in August.
5. Unemployment is slightly higher in Terrebonne than Lafourche.
Terrebonne posted a 5.2 percent unemployment rate in September, down from 5.6 percent in August and 5.4 percent a year ago.
Lafourche’s jobless rate was 4.9 percent last month, down from 5.3 percent in August and the same as August 2017.
— Executive Editor Keith Magill can be reached at 857-2201 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CourierEditor.
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