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Oilfield may see more growth in 2020

Next year could be a solid year for the oilfield compared to recent ones.

As the price of oil rises, industry officials are starting to see minimal improvement in the oilfield economy. But they anticipate the oil and gas industry could see substantial improvement in 2020, said Frank Fink, St. Mary Parish economic development director.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil has risen from about $43 per barrel in January to $58 Wednesday, according to Gasoline prices in the area have recently gone up from roughly $2 per gallon to $2.30 or $2.40, Fink said.

Several St. Mary businesses are short on labor already and are concerned that when the time comes for expansion, finding qualified workers may be an issue. Fink hopes that the parish will be able to pick up some business from deep-water oil and gas activity in the near future.

In January, St. Mary’s unemployment rate rose to 6.3 percent from 5.6 percent in December 2018, breaking a six-month streak of month-to-month declining jobless rates. From June to December, the rate had dropped 2.4 percentage points, according to statistics from the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

Though the employment statistics may not show great improvement, Fink has seen some indication that business may be picking up.

“The parking lots of the oilfield service companies have more and more cars in them,” Fink said.

St. Mary Parish had a workforce of 19,774 residents, 18,527 employed and 1,247 looking for work, compared to December 2018’s workforce of 19,910 people, 18,786 employed and 1,124 looking for work.

St. Mary was in line with other oilfield parishes in terms of their number of employed residents and jobless rates. The seven surrounding parishes of Terrebonne, Lafourche, Iberia, St. Martin, Assumption, Vermilion and Lafayette all saw increases in their unemployment rates and decreases in the number of employed residents from December 2018 to January.

During January 2018, St. Mary had a workforce of 20,162 people with 18,800 employed and 1,362 unemployed, and a 6.8 percent jobless rate.

Parish sales and use tax collections totaled $2.74 million in February, a 10.5 percent decrease from the $3.06 million collected in February 2018. But excluding collections made as a result of financial audits, collections decreased just 1.2 percent.

“I am still hearing mixed reports from business as to the amount of work going on,” said Jeff LaGrange, St. Mary sales and use tax director, in an email. “Some industries seem to be going strong. Yet others are still struggling to make ends meet.”

Monthly sales tax collections are made on the prior month’s purchases.

Audits brought in $99,583 in collections during February, while the same month of 2018 had $389,821 in collections.

February hotel sales tax collections brought in $40,014, a 3.6 percent drop from the $38,628 collected in February 2018.

The year started with a 15.7 percent rise in total collections in January and 4.9 percent jump not counting audits. Officials collected $3.92 million for January compared to $3.39 million for January 2018. Hotel tax collections rose 2.5 percent from $35,422 to $36,295 in January.


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