Houma area will gain 2,400 jobs over next 2 years, new forecast says. Here's who's hiring
Houma-Thibodaux will gain 2,400 jobs over the next two years, but it won't be enough to recoup the losses sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic followed by Hurricane Ida, a Louisiana economist says.
Loren Scott, a former LSU economics professor, includes the figures in his 2023-24 forecast for Louisiana. He delivered the annual report, with an emphasis on the local economy, in an online presentation Thursday sponsored by the South Louisiana Economic Council.
The metro area, comprised of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, lost 8,900 jobs, 10.2% of its total, in April 2020 after the pandemic hit, along with state-enforced restrictions on business and social activity, Scott said.
The area was beginning to rebound when Hurricane Ida hit on Aug. 29, 2021, devastating lives, property and the economy overall.
"The employment blow to Houma was almost equal to that levied by the COVID shutdown," his report says, plunging the area to last place among Louisiana's nine metros in terms of recovery back to pre-COVID employment levels.
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By this June, the area had regained only 22% of the jobs it had before the pandemic, down 6,900 from early 2020, the report says.
Oil remains key
Scott predicts Houma-Thibodaux will gain 700 jobs next year and 1,700 in 2024.
Hurricane recovery and a modest uptick in the Gulf of Mexico oilfield, the area's economic mainstay, will help fuel those jobs gains, he said.
Scott forecasts global crude oil will average $78 to $82 a barrel over the coming two years but cautions the price could swing anywhere between $30 to $140 a barrel. The wide range is the result of the many variables that impact the price of crude, including Russia's war with Ukraine, global demand for fuel and OPEC actions to boost or decrease production.
In general, higher crude prices have meant more work for the Houma-Thibodaux area companies that serve the Gulf oilfield as well as inland shale fields, Scott said. But other factors have worked to blunt growth in the Gulf, where the average rig count has remained below 20 for all but one of the past seven years. In comparison, as many as 149 rigs were drilling in the Gulf in 2000.
One problem for drillers is the reluctance of many traditional investors to continue lend money for fossil fuels as they instead look for greener alternatives, Scott said. Other investors are pushing oil companies for more steady profits and dividends rather than the boom-bust cycles that accompany crude prices' ups and downs.
In addition, Biden administration policies, including a temporary ban on new drilling in the Gulf and delays on new oil leases, have discouraged investment and growth in the industry.
Where the jobs are
Nonetheless, Scott said, local companies are hiring workers and money is flowing into the area that will help spur job growth. Among highlights in his report:
- Grand Isle Shipyard employs about 3,000 people, including about 700 in the Houma-Thibodaux area. GIS expects its employment to grow 10% annually through 2024.
- Danos employs 150-200 at its headquarters in Gray and about 2,000 offshore and in the shale fields. It expects to increase its workforce by 15% annually.
- Gulf Island Fabricators in Houma now has about 760 workers primarily conducting maintenance and upgrade work offshore. Another 140 employees operate out of Broussard and New Iberia area. The company wants to hire more employees but is struggling to find them.
- Galliano-based Edison Chouest Offshore is building ships to support offshore oil exploration in Ghana and tugs used to help export liquefied natural gas. The company expects orders to build six more of the tugs and possibly some cruise ships. Its LaShip yard in Houma has 600 employees and expects to add up to 200 more.
- Lockport-based Bollinger Shipyards will keep at least 650 people busy into 2024 building Coast Guard Fast-Response Cutters. The company won a contract in August that could lead to an estimated $123 million of work building Navy ships. Three of the ships will be built at the company's Lockport shipyard and involve about 100 workers. The contract involves options for 30 more of the vessels, which, if awarded, would result in about 100 new jobs.
- Thoma-Sea Shipyard in Houma now employs 400 workers is hiring another 150. Last year, the company landed a $178 million contract to build two new NOAA research vessels, a project that will last through 2024.
- The area will see about $553 million in state road projects over the next two years, most of the money going toward elevating La. 1 in south Lafourche.
- Another $500 million in federal, state and local money will go toward coastal restoration and hurricane-protection work in the area through 2024, including construction of a lock in the Houma Navigation Canal that aims to protect Houma and surrounding communities from Gulf storms and flooding.
- Port Fourchon, the oilfield hub in south Lafourche, has nearly $120 million in maintenance and expansion projects planned. And the Port of Terrebonne in Houma will spend about $40 million to clear pipelines and improve navigation on the Houma Navigation Canal.
— Executive Editor Keith Magill can be reached at 857-2201 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CourierEditor.