The major reason for the decline is the booming energy sector. Jim Richardson, director of Public Administration Institute at LSU, states that investments in southern Louisiana's oil-, gas-, and petrochemical industries, as well as low natural-gas prices and high oil prices, have helped the unemployment rate decline. Job growth has also been particularly strong in manufacturing, but negative in government jobs.
However, another reason for the decline is that unemployed people have stopped looking for work. “People who drop out of the labor force don't count as unemployed, but they're not employed,” Davy Norris, executive director of Enterprise and Economic Development at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, asserts.
Richardson observes some geographical differences: the energy sector has created jobs in the metro areas of Lake Charles, Lafayette, and Houma/Thibodaux; New Orleans has more lower-paying service industry jobs and some high-tech jobs; and the job growth has been flat in the Shreveport, Monroe, and Alexandria metro areas. Even though the growth rate in the Baton Rouge metro area has been slow recently, the job market there is expected to be robust in 2014 and 2015, particularly because of industrial expansion and construction projects in the area.
According to a report by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, the energy sector will continue to provide jobs. The report states: “Energy-catalyzed investments in petrochemicals, advanced manufacturing, and the energy industry, totaling $21 billion, will likely be the largest jobs creator in Southeast Louisiana for years to come...The ensuing wave of new job openings will be more than quadrupled by the massive retirement of baby boomers happening at the same time. The majority of 42,000 openings will be in occupations that require just a high school degree complemented by various levels of training — such as welders, machinists, and pump operators...”
However, developments are also happening in fields that require many of its workers to have a college degree. Yesterday, Gov. Bobby Jindal and CSC executive David Zolet announced that the company is building a 116,000-square-foot technology center in the National Cyber Research Park in Bossier City, creating 800 direct and 805 indirect jobs. According to a news release from Louisiana Economic Development (LED), the technology center is supported by a higher education initiative “funded by the State of Louisiana and led by Louisiana Tech University [that] will dramatically expand the number of graduates in computer science and related fields in the region, such as Louisiana Tech’s Cyber Engineering Program.” The state is also providing funding for expansion of higher education programs “designed primarily to increase the number of annual graduates in computer science and related fields.” The center is one of the largest technology projects in Louisiana history. Jindal stated that the project will “change the face and future of Northwest Louisiana.”
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(Image: Stephen Moret, Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development)