The Gulf spill's employment effect: Early evidence
In an attempt to gauge the oil spill's impact on employment, we've been tracking initial unemployment insurance claims for the coastal regions of Louisiana. Looking at weekly initial unemployment insurance claims, which are first-time applications for unemployment insurance, provides an indication of week-by-week changes in employment for coastal Louisiana parishes and is thus a high-frequency view of employment trends. We developed two measures: one for all coastal parishes, and another that includes Jefferson and Lafayette parishes. Jefferson extends to the coast, but the vast majority of employment in this parish is located in the suburbs of New Orleans, and Lafayette Parish is home to many people employed in oil and gas drilling and related services. Neither measure includes Orleans Parish.
For the Louisiana coastal regions, there was little immediate effect on initial claims data after the spill on April 20, which is not particularly surprising since the true extent of the spill remained unknown at the time. Late May saw the beginning of an increase in claims. This trend was short lived, however, as an equally marked decrease in new claims followed. In addition, BP's hiring of some out-of-work fishermen and others to assist in the clean-up has likely offset some of the job losses.
We are also looking at data about initial unemployment claims by industry, which are available on a monthly basis. Through May, the job losses do not seem to be centered in any particular region or industry in Louisiana. This situation may change as time goes on, and weekly initial claims will be a good indicator to watch.
The Atlanta Fed will continue to watch employment indicators for the coastal regions of Louisiana and the Gulf. More detailed job analysis will be available in late July when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases June state- and metro-level employment data.
By Brian Goodman, an intern in the Atlanta Fed research department
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