The best and worst of times for Louisiana over the past century have coincided with what has been considered the state’s chief economic catalyst for most of those years.
The ongoing decline in the oil and gas industry over the past seven years have walloped the state job market. Unlike other times, odds of a strong rebound do not seem so promising.
A total of 7,500 layoffs in the oil and gas industry since 2014 dealt the state one of its worst declines since the mid-1980s.
Unlike the 1980s collapse, the rebound from the 2014 downturn has not brought back the jobs that workers lost due to layoffs.
Louisiana has about 27,000 jobs in oil and gas extraction, or 7,500 fewer than in January 2020, according to state economist Dr. Loren Scott.
Some of the former workers in that industry have lived in Pointe Coupee Parish.
Some of them found work in other fields, a few never found jobs and others sought employment outside the area.
The same scenario applies to most parishes across the state.
The COVID-19 pandemic added insult to injury. Many Americans drove less last year, which cut oil and gas demand, which put a dent in oil prices, which plummeted to $11 per barrel.
The crude-oil price roller coaster went from $106 per barrel to $27 in 2016. The current price per barrel hovers around $60.
Oil hotbeds such as Lafayette and Houma continue to languish. Meanwhile, initiatives implemented by President Joe Biden do not give much hope that the industry will rebound.
The shift toward renewable energy does not bode well for the state, which has seen a drop-off in the industry that fueled Louisiana’s growth.
More than ever, the state needs to redefine its industrial focus. Part of that process will involve a greater focus on education and a willingness to look toward other industries.
It also means the state needs to focus more than ever on education and how to redirect its objectives for a changing industrial sector. Schools that promote a strong curriculum in science, technology, engineering and mathematics will play an important role in that equation.
The changes the state will face over the next few decades will prove tough and, often times, bitter. But the approach our state leaders take today could make the challenges less difficult for future generations.