Nearly a year after the BP oil spill, which caused the federal government to implement an offshore drilling moratorium, Baton Rouge appears to have been largely unaffected, economist Loren Scott says. The fear among some experts was that a lengthy slowdown in oil production would hurt state tax receipts, which in turn would affect state government employment, one of the primary stabilizing forces of the region’s economy.
Scott now says, if anything, the spill might have helped the local economy slightly. Production shifting from federal offshore waters to sites within Louisiana’s jurisdiction could give state coffers a small boost. University researchers and Baton Rouge-based consultants have gained some work in the response to the disaster, he says. Even areas of the state where oil service companies are major employers appear not to have taken a big hit, although temporary jobs related to the cleanup may have masked some of the impact.
“The employment numbers for Houma and Lafayette are actually looking very good right now, when we anticipated them being very bad,” Scott says. Seven offshore drillships each employing about 800 people have left the Gulf of Mexico, he says. Scott says Houma, which relies heavily on the oil industry, actually led the state with 4% year-to-year employment growth, according to February numbers. “In the 40 years I’ve been watching the Louisiana economy,” he says, “I think this is the biggest puzzle that I’ve faced.” —David Jacobs