The Acadiana region was slammed by the economic recession spurred by the coronavirus pandemic and the public health mandates that have stalled the world economy for the past six months. 

A recovery in the Lafayette metro is expected to fall short, since weak oil prices have compounded the economic recession there. Even by 2022, the region is projected to be thousands of jobs short of where it was before the pandemic and exacerbation of an energy downturn. 

The Lafayette metro is expected to be 3,600 jobs of short of full recovery, according to the Louisiana Economic Outlook. The annual report is penned by long-time economist and LSU professor emeritus Loren Scott and LSU Center for Energy Studies associate professor Greg Upton. The report relies on state but also national data in combination with interviews of industry executives about future plans. Never, the authors say, has there been so much uncertainty in 39 years of penning the report.

HOW MANY JOBS WERE LOST?

The Lafayette metro had lost 27,100 jobs by the end of April, about one month after the March restrictions began. 

Louisiana mandated an emergency stay-at-home order imposed for public health reasons to curb the spread of the coronavirus while global market forces on corporations with U.S. Gulf Coast operations were impacted by lack of consumer demand for petrochemical products such as jet fuel from the state’s refineries.

Likewise, oil and gas extraction companies told trade groups they feared shutting in wells across Louisiana and saw bankruptcy on the horizon despite government support programs.

Statewide, there were 273,200 jobs lost since April 2019 during the first month of the pandemic restrictions, sinking employment to 1.73 million jobs.

As of July, there were 1.83 million jobs across Louisiana, which is a recovery of 18,800 jobs between June and July, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

The Lafayette metro added back 1,700 jobs between June and July for a total of 192,400 jobs total but was still down 10,200 jobs, records show. 

HOW MANY JOBS MAY COME BACK?

In 2019, Lafayette had 204,300 jobs in the metro area but by the end of 2020 there are estimated to be only 193,500 jobs in the market as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

By 2021, Lafayette is expected to have 198,900 jobs and one year after that grow to 200,700 jobs. 

The Lafayette job count is estimated to be down 5.3% by the end of this year from pre-pandemic levels, then grow sluggishly by 2.8% in 2021 and 0.9% in 2022. That means 5,400 jobs would be added in 2021 and another 1,800 jobs  in 2022. 

WHICH INDUSTRIES SHOULD BE WATCHED?

While leisure and hospitality sector jobs were impacted in Lafayette, those connected to the oil and gas services industry were hit hardest. 

Oil and gas services sector jobs in Lafayette were already weakened by the initial crash of U.S. oil prices in 2014 and subsequent freefall since 2016. 

After the coronavirus pandemic began, it also impacted the final investment decision by corporations looking to expand. Oil futures briefly dipped below zero for the first time in history. 

Petrochemical manufacturers and refineries alike slashed jobs to meet reduced demand as travelers stopped moving around the world. Maintenance projects at industrial sites were also largely delayed. Several oil and gas services companies in Louisiana filed for bankruptcy. In Carencro, Professional Pumping Services filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and auctioned off all its assets in June. 

Haliburton closed its Broussard office and took 36 jobs with it, while 180 were laid off at ASRC Energy Services Omega, which supports offshore oil and gas operations. Even the local casino, Evangeline Downs Racetrack, laid off 246 workers in June. 

Other industries to watch in Lafayette that are growing include health care and technology. Job gains are expected at medical emergency transport and safety training business Acadian Companies, home health and hospice services provider LHC Group and tech company CGI. 

Mining and logging, which includes oil and gas extraction, only employed 10,700 workers in Lafayette as of July, down 2,800 workers over the year. Modest gains of 200 jobs were made between June and July in mining and logging in Lafayette. 

Leisure and hospitality sector jobs in Lafayette recovered between June and July by 1,500 jobs and actually added 1,400 workers over the year for a total of 22,600 in that industry cluster. 

Professional and business services lost 400 jobs between June and July and year-over-year is down 3,000 jobs in Lafayette. 

Acadiana Business Today: Lafayette not expected to recover thousands of jobs lost during coronavirus by 2022


Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.