Lafayette area employment statistics reflect a workforce in dramatic flux, with more than 2,000 jobs lost over the year in oil and gas but more than 1,000 additional jobs gained in the retail category.
The number of not-seasonally-adjusted, non-farm jobs in Lafayette declined by 1,800 overall, year over year, the Louisiana Workforce Commission revealed Tuesday, but there were more employed people, 885, year over year, in the Lafayette area.
The LWC on Tuesday released unemployment data for Louisiana’s nine metropolitan statistical areas, including the Lafayette MSA, which includes Lafayette, Acadia, Iberia, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes.
In all nine MSAs, the rate of unemployment fell for the month, including the Lafayette MSA, where unemployment fell from 6.8 percent in June to 6.4 percent in July.
But the numbers reveal a story in swirl.
Aaron Caffarel, LWC spokesman, said the collapse in oil and gas jobs, which are largely reflected within the mining and logging category of employment, numbered some 2,200 for the year. In general, those are high-paying jobs with benefits.
Some 1,100 more jobs were created in the trade, transportation and utilities job category, Caffarel said, which includes wholesale and retail trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities.
In addition, he said, there were 400 more jobs in the Lafayette MSA in the categories of education and health services and leisure and hospitality. Other categories of employment also grew in the area, including 100 jobs each in information, financial activities and government categories.
Unemployment within Lafayette Parish itself was 5.7 percent in July, down from 6.1 percent in June but up from 5.6 percent in July 2014. Unemployment in the MSA was highest in Iberia Parish, with 8.0 percent unemployed in July, down from 8.6 percent in June but up from 7 percent recorded in July 2014.
Jason El Koubi, president and CEO of One Acadiana, said the numbers, collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, should be considered “preliminary” as experts “better try to understand and respond to the negative impact of lower oil prices.
“Recent employment statistics indicate we need to redouble our efforts to diversify our economic base,” he said of the MSA, which includes many One Acadiana parishes. “We need to do everything possible to protect the energy sector during difficult economic times.”
The MSAs for Alexandria, Houma, Monroe, New Orleans and Shreveport all recorded improved unemployment numbers, but fewer jobs. Baton Rouge, Hammond and Lake Charles all recorded drops in unemployment, but more jobs over the year.
Baton Rouge jobs rose by 6,600, year over year, while Lake Charles jobs increased by 5,600.
Gregg Gothreaux, president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Authority, said it was unusual for the parish to lose jobs while improving its unemployment rate. But he pointed to the Lake Charles job increases, many of them in construction and in oil and gas, as one possible explanation.
At least some Lafayette MSA workers may be working in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes, he said, where plants are being built and jobs created in liquified natural gas.
Lafayette MSA employment, July 2015
Acadia Parish: 25,996 working, 6.8 percent unemployed
Iberia Parish: 31,568 working, 8 percent unemployed
Lafayette Parish: 117,403 working, 5.7 percent unemployed
St. Martin Parish: 23,918 working, 6.8 percent unemployed
Vermilion Parish, 25,698 working, 6.8 percent unemployed
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics