Total demand for skilled craft workers will peak in the last quarter of 2016 at a record 34,091 jobs, driven by major industrial projects and a spike in maintenance turnarounds, according to a forecast from the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance Inc.
The finding is part of the alliance’s 18-month contract labor survey of industrial plants. The alliance is a trade group representing 60 industrial facilities in the region.
“Despite the industrial slowdown beginning in 2017, the number of employment openings sees a slight increase from the alliance’s previous labor forecast results for July 2015 to January 2016,” said Jessica Brouillette, manager of communications and research.
The forecast shows a small dip in large capital projects at the start of 2017. The alliance estimates total capital costs will climb to more than $40 billion.
The forecast is broken down into three segments: maintenance and small capital projects; large capital projects; and turnarounds, major maintenance and cleanup work.
Demand for skilled laborers on major projects is expected to surpass the 16,000-job mark during the last four months of the year, a level last seen in 2014, the alliance said. The workers needed to perform turnarounds will jump from 3,074 in January to 6,981 in October. Little variation is expected in maintenance and small projects.
Last year’s forecast expected the demand for contract labor to reach 27,000 to 28,000 jobs during the first half of 2016. At the time, that projection represented record demand. The current survey shows those levels have been surpassed.
The survey shows there will be opportunities for more than 25,000 construction jobs and nearly that amount in indirect, permanent jobs.
For now, low oil prices haven’t affected the demand for contract labor, Brouillette said. However, refineries are considering cost-cutting options.
Economist Loren Scott said on the plus side, refineries aren’t driving much of the increase in employment, so efficiency measures aren’t likely to have a major effect on refinery jobs. Any cost cuts are probably being driven by losses on the production side, he said.
“I would think that the refineries are already running pretty mean and lean,” Scott said. “Secondly, their money is made off the difference between the price of gasoline and the price of oil. In a sense, it doesn’t matter how low the price of oil goes as long as the price of gasoline presents a nice margin.”
Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter, @tedgriggsbr.