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Sunday, February 17, 2019



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Houma-Thibodaux loses another 400 jobs

Houma-Thibodaux loses another 400 jobs


Houma-Thibodaux lost 400 jobs last month and 1,000 last year, new figures show.

The area’s unemployment rate, 4.2 percent last month, was down from 4.5 percent in November but showed no change compared to December 2017, according to figures released this week by the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

The rate declined because the labor force, defined as a combination of people working or looking for jobs locally, continues to shrink. Residents no longer looking for work locally are not counted as unemployed.

The metro area, comprised of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, has lost jobs three straight months. And for each of the past five months, the area has shown job losses compared to the year before.

However, oil and gas exploration and production jobs are up 200 compared to December 2017, the fourth consecutive over-the-year gain. Prior to the streak, the category had not seen an over-the-year gain since December 2014.

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 companies drive down the break-even cost of Gulf drilling and oil prices have risen. Louisiana economist Loren Scott told local business people that he expects the area to gain 700 jobs this year and 2,100 in 2020 as oil prices rise and offshore drilling picks up.

Louisiana’s unemployment rate, 4.3 percent in December, was down from 4.5 percent in November but up from 4 percent a year ago. Across the U.S., only Alaska, the District of Columbia and West Virginia posted higher jobless rates, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The U.S. jobless rate was 3.7 percent in December, up from 3.5 percent in November but down from 3.9 percent a year ago.

Among trends in Tuesday’s report:

1. The local workforce continues to shrink. The area’s civilian labor force totaled 85,554 in December, down 928 for the month and 2,408 for the year.

The figure is down from 107,577 in August 2014, a 20 percent decline. Since the oil bust began, one of every five people in the labor force have left Terrebonne and Lafourche, gone back to school or otherwise stopped looking for work. In December, 3,621 residents were unemployed and looking for work, 312 fewer than November and 44 fewer than a year ago.

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, 5,400, is down 100 for the month but up 200 from a year ago. And it’s down 2,300, or 31 percent, since August 2014.

The trend is similar for oilfield-service jobs. About 4,500 people held such jobs in December, down 200 for the month and 100 for the year. The total is down 1,700, or 30 percent, since August 2014.

3. The losses have been worse for shipbuilding and other maritime jobs, but the decline has also slowed. The local offshore maritime industry employed 3,300 people in December, the same since April and no change for the month or year. The local maritime industry has shed 2,900 jobs, or 48 percent, since the oil bust began.

4. The area’s average pay is the highest among the state’s nine metro areas. Employees in Terrebonne and Lafourche earned an average hourly wage of $26.53 last month, up 55 cents from a year ago. That equates to a salary of $55,182 a year.

The next closest metro area was Baton Rouge, with an average hourly wage of $26.20 in December.

The figures released are not adjusted for seasonal variations, including temporary jobs businesses add or eliminate routinely at certain times of the year.

 

-- Daily Comet Executive Editor Keith Magill can be reached at 857-2201 or keith.magill@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter