Big increases in Louisiana’s employment numbers became routine monthly announcements in 2014.
By the end of November, the state’s seasonally unadjusted nonfarm jobs number pushed to within 1,700 of 2 million — a magic mark never recorded in Louisiana.
Ongoing or announced industrial construction and expansion projects pushed past $100 billion as state and business leaders complained of a rapidly growing need for workers with skills in science, technology, engineering and math.
Those are the STEM abilities so prized by heavy industry, oil-and-gas companies and the state’s growing software-development fields.
In July, officials of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association announced the number of offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico will double within a decade.
At the same time, retirements are expected to shrink the available offshore workforce by 40 percent.
Association officials and leaders of Louisiana’s four-year and community colleges pledged to work together to train students for $60,000 high-tech jobs opening on those offshore platforms.
In September, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis listed Lake Charles among the nation’s 10 fastest growing metro areas in terms of its gross domestic product growth rate.
The Baton Rouge and Houma-Thibodaux metro areas both were listed among the top 20 for rate of growth in gross domestic product, the BEA reported.
All of that good news, though, was accompanied by a steady increase in the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate to 6.3 percent last month. That was 1.3 percentage points higher than the jobless rate for November 2013. Louisiana Workforce Commission officials, however, dismissed the increased unemployment rate as evidence that Louisiana’s industrial boom is attracting job applicants from other states.
By late October, numbers were so good that economists Loren C. Scott and James A. Richardson, of LSU, predicted Louisiana would grow 66,700 new jobs in 2015 and 2016 combined. The elusive 2 million mark would be smashed sometime in 2015.
Only two possible Grinches could steal that Christmas gift in 2015, Scott and Richardson said.
The first Grinch was identified as an unexpected huge decline in oil prices, one that dropped the cost of crude below $85 per barrel.
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate dropped below $54 per barrel last week.
The second Grinch was identified as a possible worldwide recession in the second half of 2015.
Richardson and Scott did not predict such a recession, but they noted that business newsletter publisher David Levy does. They said Levy’s grandfather correctly forecast the Great Depression that began in 1929. They also said Levy’s father correctly predicted the huge economic boom that followed World War II, and his uncle called the dot-com crash of 1999.
More recently, Levy forecast the nationwide collapse of the mortgage-backed securities market 16 months before all that poisoned paper paved the path to taxpayer bailouts of big banks in 2008 and the Great Recession.
Scott and Richardson said they hope Levy’s predicted recession proves false. If not, they said, “all of the projections about oil prices and investment plans in Louisiana will be off the mark.”