It's official: LA economist says the state is in a recession

It's official: LA economist says the state is in a recession

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The state's chief economist says it's official: Louisiana is in a recession.

And on the streets of New Orleans and at local food banks, you can find those who feel the impact. One of them, Wayne Hendrix of Lockport, once made six figures a year working on oilfield supply vessels.

"There ain't a job I didn't do. Jack of all trades," he said.

Hendrix is one of the faces of the Louisiana recession - one of nearly 137,000 people out of work.

"They got spot jobs here and there, but it's bad," he said.

"There's no improvement in sight," said Greg Albrecht, the state's chief economist.

Albrecht said the Louisiana jobless rate has risen each month for the past 14 months, due in large part to the slump in oil prices.

"We've been in a real decline, but the rest of the country has not," Albrecht said.

In oil-dependent Houma, the September jobless rate was 7.1 percent, up more than one-and-a-half percent from last year, and hundreds can't find work.

"It's bad right now. The worst I've ever seen," said Hendrix.

Albrecht said Louisiana is not alone in feeling the effects of the oil industry downturn. He said Texas felt it too, but recovered much more quickly.

"Texas had a picture like this, but they only had about two months before they started growing again - a much more diversified economy," he said.

Food for the needy from Second Harvest food bank is in high demand - especially on the heels of recent flooding - as the holidays approach.

"Through our helpline we see people reaching out, impacted by oilfield jobs, or communities that felt the impact," said Melanie McGuire with Second Harvest.

Hendrix said he has seen it before. Ten years ago he lost his job when the Valentine Paper Mill was shuttered in Lafourche Parish. Now the oil slump has put the squeeze on he and his son.

"He lost everything - had a beautiful house in Golden Meadow," Hendrix said.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to streamline the drilling permitting process and to make America a net energy exporter. That could provide jobs down the line, but many say it won't be overnight. Hendrix says he is not phased.

"I'm 55 years old," he said. I can do anything. I'm gonna find me a job, you know."

But he knows it may not be in the oilfield.

The state's jobless rate has been on the rise since December 2014, and the slump in oil prices continues to hurt the state budget.

Lawmakers are now looking at ways of cutting $315 million from the budget this fiscal year.

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