OUR OPINION: Louisiana job market grows stronger

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Who was it said things never change?

They have certainly been proven wrong in 2009.

The New England Patriots were not in the Super Bowl.

America elected its first African-American President in Barack Obama.

And, in the midst of a global recession, Louisiana ranks second highest in the nation for the strength of its job market.

In the past, Louisiana suffered mightily because it is so dependent on the oil industry to keep its job market afloat. People not interested in working in the oil and chemical industry have fled the state by droves to find high tech and other skilled jobs elsewhere.

Now the opposite is true.

Louisiana is one of a group of oil producing states, including Wyoming, Oklahoma and Texas, whose lifelines to the oil industry have kept them ranked in the top five job markets during the recession.

A Gallup poll survey of 100,000 employed adults in 2008 led the polling firm to conclude that oil producing states, coal producers like West Virginia and farm states with ethanol and marketable commodities like Nebraska were the best job market states.

And, Louisiana was ranked No. 2 behind Wyoming.

The Gallop pollsters ascertained that the bursting of the housing market bubble and the crash of the financial industry has hurt states dependent on those industries, while oil producers have managed better in the recession.

However, Gallup said that while net hiring numbers were positive during 2008, the numbers turned negative as the year wound down. Gallup said job losses will continue to accelerate across the board this year.

This proved to be the case in Louisiana with word Friday afternoon that Dow Chemical Company will terminate 160 of its 1,600 permanent employees in Plaquemine and another 110 of its 1,100 people in Hahnville.

In December Dow laid off contract laborers and cut its maintenance budget, saying it did not anticipate laying off permanent workers.

Now, the layoffs are here as worldwide demand for plastics used in automobiles and consumer products drops.

Gallop measured consumer confidence state by state in the same survey, and the pollsters concluded that eight of the best job market states also ranked in the top ten in terms of consumer confidence.

Louisiana came in tied for fifth in that poll as one of the least negative states regarding the condition of the economy.

It should be noted that residents of every state are negative about the economy, but Louisiana, which is one of the states with a relatively strong job market, is also one of the states with a less negative view about the recession.

We can all take comfort from Louisiana’s relatively strong position in these troubled times.

Let’s hope the state’s job market and optimism remain strong in 2009.