The stock markets took a tumble after a disappointing May jobs report, but the loss should not have been that surprising to anyone in Louisiana, where oil and gas employment has suffered severely.
With an estimated 16,000 jobs lost in the past year in “mining” in the state, which includes oil and gas extraction, as well as timber production around the state, Louisiana’s woes with oil and gas presaged the national slowdown.
The U.S. Labor Department issued a particularly disappointing jobs report last week. Only 38,000 jobs were added in May, the lowest monthly gain in more than five years, and one that surprised analysts on Wall Street.
About 35,000 striking Verizon workers, who weren’t included in the count, contributed to the weak estimates.
Even without the strike, analysts said, job growth still would have fallen far short of expectations.
These numbers perhaps understate the impact of oil and gas employment in the national economy, as thousands of people were working on shale production in states as diverse as Pennsylvania and North Dakota.
Louisiana and Texas, in the traditional oil patch, are not alone in feeling a wave of unemployment in high-wage jobs, as occurred in energy downturns in past decades.
It’s a national problem, not just a Louisiana problem, but it is made worse by the big-picture economic statistics. Growth is slow in our major trading partners, including the European Union countries.
In Louisiana, as elsewhere in the United States, job growth is going to resume most easily with those people educated to take part in the “post-industrial” economy. That means high school diplomas are no longer the tickets to employment and a decent standard of living.
The growth in the economy is likely to be with jobs requiring at least an associate degree or an industry credential from community college or technical school — institutions that were relatively rare in Louisiana until recently. Over the past two decades, our state has vastly expanded its community college and technical school system, and the new jobs report only underscores how vital that will be to families in the future.