News roundup: … Louisiana unemployment rises as oil and gas sector loses 10,000 jobs over the course of a year … Loss of two active oil and gas rigs in Louisiana is offset by the addition of three offshore rigs, but US rig count falls to new low … GM to recall more than 1M pickups to fix seat belt problem.
Going up: Louisiana’s unemployment rate rose in March, as more people entered the labor force. The Associated Press reports the state’s jobless rate rose to 6.1%, up from 5.9% in February, but below March 2015’s rate of 6.6%. A separate survey shows payrolls were flat in March from February, but remained 13,000 below year-ago levels, signaling continued weakness in Louisiana’s economy. Oil and gas employment fell by 10,000 over the year. The unemployment rate ties for seventh-worst among states, remaining above the nation’s 5% rate. Both sets of figures, adjusted to cancel out seasonal changes, were released today by the U.S. Labor Department. The number of unemployed Louisianans rose to 132,000 in March, up by 5,000 from February, but about 12,000 fewer than in March 2015.
Offshore offset: The addition of three offshore rigs offset the loss of one north Louisiana inland rig and one of the state’s inland water rigs this week, bringing the total number of active oil and gas rigs to 48 for the week ending today. According to oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc., Louisiana has gained one rig since last week. By comparison, the state had 72 rigs around the same time period last year. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports the number of active oil and gas rigs nationwide continues to trend downward. Rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. dropped by three this week to 440, again reaching an-time low amid depressed energy industry prices. A year ago, 954 rigs were active. According to Baker Hughes, 351 rigs sought oil and 89 explored for natural gas in the United States this week. The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981. The previous low of 488 set in 1999 was eclipsed March 11, and has continued to dip.
GM recall: General Motors is recalling more than 1 million Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks worldwide because the seat belts may not hold the driver in a crash. The company, which announced the recall on Friday, says it covers certain 2014 and 2015 model 1500 pickups. A steel cable that connects the belts to the trucks can bend when the driver sits in the seats. Over time it can wear and separate, and if that happens, the belts could come loose. GM said it found the problem by analyzing warranty data, and that it has no reports of crashes or injuries due to the cables. The problem happens rarely and mainly with trucks used by businesses in which drivers frequently enter and exit, GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said. Although the recall is large, GM says it expects to cover the cost from its normal warranty reserves. The company has told dealers not to sell about 3,000 new 2014 and 2015 trucks until the cables are repaired. The Silverado is GM’s top-selling vehicle, while the Sierra ranks No. 3. Read the full story.