Digging Deeper Into the Job Numbers

Election season is officially over, so the TV commercials, mailbox flyer campaigns and every other form of political propaganda about what is or isn’t happening in Louisiana’s economy has ceased.

So now, it’s time to push all of that sludge to the side and take an honest dive into the numbers to give a pulse of the state’s economy heading into 2020.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission releases monthly data of Louisiana’s economy and jobs report — both for the state and also segmented into metropolitan areas around Louisiana.

The data shows that both the state and also our area have lost jobs over the past 12 months.

LOUISIANA TOTAL JOBS UP, BUT UNEMPLOYMENT ABOVE NATIONAL AVERAGES

Throughout the gubernatorial campaign, there was widespread debate about the Louisiana economy.

Supporters of John Bel Edwards said the state’s economy was in recovery after a few tough years, but that things were looking bright in both the present and the future.

Supporters of Eddie Rispone said that Louisiana lagged behind the rest of the nation.

Perhaps the reason why it was such a contentious election is because both sides were right in their claims — even if politically slanted.

Over the past year (from October 2018 to October 2019), Louisiana gained 3,600 jobs in the nonfarm sector. In the private sector, the state added 5,500 more jobs in the past year.

Both the nonfarm and private sectors have progressively improved. Nonfarm jobs were up in 20 of the past 23 months and private employment jobs in Louisiana have increased for 20-straight months.

But are we a leader in nationally in our state’s economy?

No.

Our state has a labor force of 2.1 million people. More than 94,000 of those people are unemployed. That makes our unemployment rate 4.5 percent — almost a full percent point below the 3.6 percent national average. At the peak of the oil and gas boom a decade ago, our state’s unemployment was far closer to par.

WHAT SEGMENTS ARE ADDING/LOSING JOBS AROUND LOUISIANA

Like everything else, some areas have been up and others have been down.

Let’s take a look at some of the areas around the state that have added and lost the most jobs in the past 12 months (from October 2018 to October 2019)

Education was the biggest winner with 7,400 jobs added around Louisiana. Also seeing significant increases were professional services (3,200 added), manufacturing (3,100 added) and trade (2,200 added).

Among the industries seeing the most losses statewide were construction (lost 9,700 jobs), information services (lost 1,900 jobs) and government (lost 1,900 jobs).

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN HOUMA-THIBODAUX?

We know — we know — all of the Louisiana statewide statistics in the world don’t mean a hill of beans to the person from Houma wondering about the future of our economy in our area.

Luckily, we have statistics specific for our area, too.

Those numbers are not quite as rosy.

As of October 2019, there are 84,600 jobs in the Houma-Thibodaux area, which according to these statistics includes Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Mary parishes.

That 84,600 number is actually up 200 jobs from September 2019, which is good news.

But the bad news is that our area has lost 1,700 jobs over the past year from October 2018 to October 2019.

And that’s just the beginning.

The jobs report states that the Houma-Thibodaux area has been in a steady decline, having posted 13-straight over-the-year losses from one year to the next.

By comparison, the Lafayette area has posted 20-straight over-the-year job gains. Lake Charles has added jobs in 99 of the past 100 months. Those areas are two economic hotbeds in the state —
areas that have greatly benefitted from land drilling and fracking — a business boom that’s hampered our local oil and gas deepwater industry here at home.

In the Houma-Thibodaux jobs report, it states that construction jobs are down 100 jobs over the year, but trade, transportation and utilities jobs are all up 100 jobs over the past month as we head toward 2020.

WHAT LOCAL DELEGATION PLANS TO DO GOING FORWARD

Both of our area’s parish presidents are very aware of the numbers and the need for an economic comeback.

Both said they will work tirelessly during their terms to do everything they can to generate momentum for our area.

Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove won re-election in October, and throughout his campaign, he pointed to economic victories during his term.

Most recently, Rouses announced that they’re moving their corporate headquarters from Thibodaux to Houma. Strides have also been made at the Houma airport, among other wins.

Dove said be it tax breaks, be it recruiting, be it going to Washington D.C. to get federal money for hurricane protection, he will do anything he can to try and help our area flourish. He also pointed to the importance of getting the Bayou Country Sports Park completed because having quality of life indicators are a huge measuring stick to attract new business.

“We will do everything we can,” Dove said during the election campaigning. “It’s a skill. You can’t learn how to do it. You just have to know how to do it — how to communicate with these people and how to offer the things they’re looking for. I’ve been doing it the past several years and for most of my life. We will work hard and do everything we can for the people of Terrebonne Parish.”

While Dove seeks to continue his push, in Lafourche, there will be new leadership in 2020 when Archie Chaisson takes over the parish’s highest office, replacing the outgoing Jimmy Cantrelle, who did not seek re-election.

Chaisson said his economic plan will be centered on efforts to try and diversify when possible, but also on trying to grow Fourchon as much as possible.



The port is a local economic and energy leader.

“We’re going to make sure we have partnerships with them, but without getting in their way,” Chaisson said when detailing his economic plan. “Finishing the La. 1 Highway, working with the brand-new LNG facility that’s coming to the port, making sure that they have the tax incentives that they need to be able to locate here and grow here is going to be crucial. And then finally, we’re going to work with them on continued economic development for our area.” •

BY CASEY GISCLAIR