Published: April 14, 2021
By: Brittney Forbes | LSU Manship News Service
BATON ROUGE — Employment in Louisiana’s oil and gas industry has been declining since 2014 and took another big hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, with layoffs of 7,500 more workers.
The high-paying jobs have not come back yet even though world oil prices have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. And as President Joe Biden pushes to accelerate a shift to renewable energy sources, oil and gas workers from Lafayette to Houma are feeling increasingly uneasy about the future.
Loren Scott, an economist who does consulting work for the industry, said Louisiana has about 27,000 jobs in oil and gas extraction, or 7,500 fewer than in January 2020. That number reflects those working in oil and gas exploration and production.
“The big hit that took place is a result of COVID just dealing another blow to the industry,” he said.
Even with the rebound in crude oil prices over the last few months, the South Louisiana oil patch remains “one of the few sectors of the economy that did not show any improvement” in jobs, Scott said.
Gary Wagner, an economics professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said that an array of businesses that support the oil and gas industry also have lost jobs, and adding these in brings the total job losses to at least 24,000 since the peak in 2014.
Crude oil prices plunged from $106 a barrel in 2014 to $27 in 2016 before bouncing to more than $60 in January 2020.
Patrick Courreges, the communications director at the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, said the industry suffered last year as Americans cut back on travel and worked from home. That’s because many of the refined products, like gasoline, are for transportation.
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