Industry slump hits home for hundreds of laid-off oil workers - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Industry slump hits home for hundreds of laid-off oil workers

At one time, many of those now laid off were on top of the world. (FOX 8 Photo) At one time, many of those now laid off were on top of the world. (FOX 8 Photo)
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Louisiana suffered from a built-in budget deficit long before oil prices started sliding. But the industry's collapse only makes matters worse.

The governor says the financial crisis threatens everything from college classrooms to LSU football.

As oil prices plummet, the state has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties and taxes, and some citizens have lost a  way of life. Don Taylor is trying to get his life back. Taylor, who grew up in an oil family, is one of 10,000 Louisiana residents who have lost their jobs because of the decline in oil prices.

"It's on its way out.The industry is dying. It's not going to be there forever," Taylor said.

At one time, many of those now laid off were on top of the world.

"It was good money. I was guaranteed 84 hours a week," said Mike Barber.

Now, as Barber and Taylor deal with a number of personal issues at the New Orleans Mission, they look back on the days of big salaries - likely gone forever.

"Years ago, I made $100,000 that year. I was 27 without a high school diploma," said Taylor.

But all that began changing seven years ago, when the price of a barrel of oil peaked at nearly $150. It has dropped to $30 a barrel now, about one-fifth of its previous value. and thousands of  lucrative jobs have disappeared.

"Our region has lost, in fact, 1,100 energy jobs, so we've lost a significant number," said Michael Hecht with GNO Inc.

The Houston Chronicle calls the current slump the worst oil bust in 45 years. While the results are devastating for individuals who have lost six-figure jobs, the impact on the state and its people is also significant.

"Every dollar drop in a barrel of oil takes about $12 or $13 million out of our state economy because of the severance taxes that we don't get," said Hecht.

State lawmakers are now looking at cutting colleges, programs for the disabled and sports programs as they struggle to make up a $1 billion budget shortfall, in large part because of slump in oil prices that once paid big salaries.

"I only worked three and a half months, and I made $75,000, I went home," said Taylor.

Now, Taylor is home for good at the mission, the days of heady salaries likely behind him.

While jobs have dropped dramatically, so have average salaries. The website departmentofnumbers.com says average household income in Louisiana has dropped from $48,000 in 2008, when oil prices were high, to about $44,500 in 2014 - about a 12 percent decrease.

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