Louisiana loses 8,800 nonfarm jobs as oil slumps, other sectors take a hit _lowres


Louisiana’s nonfarm employment fell by 8,800 jobs for the 12 months ending in October, as the state lost ground in seven of 11 economic sectors.

The 0.4 percent decline dropped Louisiana to 1,992,900 jobs in October from a year ago, according to preliminary numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the same 12-month period, the U.S. added 2.7 million jobs, for an increase of 1.9 percent.

The state’s mining and logging sector, which includes oil and gas jobs, shrank by 8,900 jobs, or 16.7 percent. Other hard-hit sectors were trade, transportation and utilities, which lost 8,700 jobs, and government, which shed 6,100 jobs.

The figures were not adjusted for seasonal changes.

“If low oil prices continue, then we can expect to see greater impact on the state’s workforce, especially in areas dependent on the oil industry,” said Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

Hardest hit by the oil slump have been the Lafayette and Houma-Thibodaux areas.

Eysink noted that uncertainty about oil and gas reinforces the urgency of a unified approach among business and education leaders to better prepare Louisianians for jobs that are expected to be in demand in the coming years.

“Despite the losses we are seeing in oil and gas, employers are seeking to fill jobs across the state,” he said.

Louisiana enjoyed its biggest gains in education and health services, up 6,400 jobs, or 2.1 percent; professional and business services, up 5,800 jobs, or 2.7 percent; and leisure and hospitality, 4,700 jobs, or 2.1 percent.

The effect of the fraying oil patch is filtering to other sectors. For example, construction employment statewide grew by 1,100 jobs, but those figures fell well short of what might be expected during an unprecedented manufacturing renaissance. About half the $145.5 billion worth of projects announced are under construction or have been completed.

Anirban Basu, chief economist for Construction Financial Management Association and Associated Builders and Contractors, said Thursday in a forum that low oil prices have dislocated a number of construction workers.

Basu told attendees at the South Louisiana Economic Forum he doesn’t expect the state’s construction industry to rebound until 2016, when work will begin on billions of dollars worth of industrial projects around the state.

Areas benefiting most from industrial construction have been Lake Charles and Baton Rouge.

Meanwhile, the state’s labor force — those with jobs or looking for work — dropped by 2.2 percent, or 48,700 people, to 2,158,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate dropped from 6.8 percent to 6.4 percent. Some 138,600 residents were jobless in October, compared with 150,200 a year earlier.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission said it will release October figures for the state’s nine metro areas and 64 parishes on Dec. 7.

A separate weekly job-related report on Friday showed first-time claims for unemployment insurance in Louisiana for the week ending Nov. 14 increased from the previous week’s total.

The state labor department said the initial claims increased to 3,196 from the previous week’s 1,807 and attributed the jump in claims to a system glitch. For the comparable week a year earlier, there were 2,377 claims.

The four-week moving average, which is a less volatile measure of claims, increased to 2,486 from the previous week’s total of 2,272.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission said its unemployment information processing system was offline Nov. 4-7. That contributed to an over-the-week decrease of 632 initial claims for the week ending Nov. 7. The system’s unavailability also resulted in a larger than usual increase in initial claims for the week ending Nov. 14 because claimants who were unable to file the previous week did so in the week ending Nov. 14.

Continued unemployment claims for the week ending Nov. 14 decreased to 19,595, compared with 22,428 the previous week.

The four-week moving average for such claims decreased to 21,863 from the previous week’s average of 22,670.

Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter, @tedgriggsbr.