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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Area loses another 900 jobs

Area loses another 900 jobs

Houma-Thibodaux lost 900 jobs last month and 2,300 since last September as a three-year offshore oil bust continues to take a toll, new figures show.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission recently released a report reflecting the greatest monthly job losses since the 1,800 recorded in January.

The metro area, comprised of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, posted a 5.5 percent unemployment rate in September, down from 5.7 percent in August and 7 percent a year ago.

The report indicates the unemployment rate has declined because people are leaving the workforce altogether and are no longer counted as jobless. That includes people who have returned to school, left the area or given up on a job search.

The civilian labor force, the number of people working or looking for work, dropped from 107,577 in August 2014 to 82,199 last month. That means 24 percent, or nearly one in four people, have left the local workforce over the past three years.

The latest figures bring to 16,300 the estimated number of jobs Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes have lost since the oil bust began in mid-2014.

By year’s end, the area will have lost 16,700 jobs, one of every six, since the oil bust began, Louisiana economist Loren Scott forecasts in a separate forecast released earlier this month. He expects the area to lose another 1,800 jobs next year before gaining about 700 in 2019.

The monthly loss is 100 higher than preliminary figures the state agency released a week ago. The yearly job loss figure is 500 greater than the earlier estimate.

Jobs directly involved in oil and gas exploration and production are down by 100 compared to September 2016, the 32nd straight month of over-the-year losses. Specifics:

- About 5,600 workers held those jobs last month, down 100 since August.

- Oilfield service jobs remained steady at 4,900 for the month and are up by 100 compared to a year ago.

- Maritime jobs, including shipbuilding, also remained steady for the month at 4,200 but are down by 200 for the year.

- Administrative and support services, another category that includes mostly oilfield-related jobs, also remained steady from August to September but were down 200 for the year.

All of those figures were among the best in recent months.

Louisiana posted a 5.3 percent unemployment rate for September, the lowest since August 2008, the report says. It’s down from 5.6 percent in August and 6.4 percent in September 2016.

The U.S. jobless rate was 4.1 percent in September, down from 4.5 percent in August and 4.8 percent a year ago.

Oil prices have slid to less than half their mid-2014 high of about $115 a barrel, and Scott and other economists and analysts predict the price will not rise to the $60 break-even point for most deepwater drilling projects in the Gulf until at least 2019.

The Gulf of Mexico rig count, a key barometer for Houma-Thibodaux’s oil-based economy, is down 64 percent from the 56 rigs working in August 2014, when the oil bust began.