TERREBONNE PARISH, LA (WVUE) - The latest job numbers for Louisiana's oil and gas show the industry is not bouncing back as quickly as expected.
The industry lost 1,800 jobs in January, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
Louisiana's job market remains one of the lowest in the country with an unemployment rate of 5.9, the fourth worst in the nation. With the price of oil teetering around $50 a barrel for nearly a year, the struggling oil and gas industry takes the brunt of the blame.
"Terrebonne Parish and southern Lafourche Parish are extraction-based economies, so when the price of oil goes down, we extract less and the economy contracts," said Terrebonne Economic Development Authority CEO Matthew Rookard.
The Houma area has lost 6,000 jobs over the past year, but Rookard remains optimistic because the area only lost 200 jobs last month.
"Now, we are down to losing a hundred versus losing 800 jobs a month. We are seeing some positive activity. We've actually talked to several companies that are picking up hiring, and until that oil and gas comes back, it's going to be really hard to get our retail businesses, our lawyers, our real estate agents back to where they were," Rookard said.
Rookard believes that bounce back will not be until the end of this year or the beginning of 2018. The market remains unpredictable because when the price of oil increases, natural gas extraction picks up and brings the price of oil back down.
"The gas market is intrinsically more healthy than the oil market is, even though the prices and the attention is focused on the oil," Tulane Energy Institute Associate Director Eric Smith said.
Smith foresees the oil and gas industry shifting to provide more on-shore and pipeline creation jobs in the future.
"Those are the sorts of businesses where there is a growth potential that could employ more people," he said. "Trying to stick with the shallow water exploration and development - it's a losing cause."
The nation's unemployment rate stands at 4.7. The lowest it has been since 2007.