Coastal Employment before the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster: Employment Maps and Data from 2008

Allison Plyer Richard Campanella  (Tulane University–Center for Bioenvironmental Research)

Published: Jul 20, 2010

This brief describes employment in coastal Louisiana two years prior to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The jobs data within this brief serves as a baseline against which future impacts of the oil disaster may be compared. Louisiana’s coast is a working coast; it plays a disproportionate role in job generation. Coastal areas are second only to inner cities in terms of having high ratios of jobs to the number of people who live there. The Deepwater Horizon oil leak will disproportionately affect these coastal job clusters.


Millions of barrels of oil have idled commercial and sport fishing operations throughout southeastern Louisiana coastal waters since the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster of April 20, 2010. Businesses that serve the fishing industry, or buy their harvests, have similarly been affected. Among them are tackle shops, net makers, gas stations, restaurants, truckers, and seafood processors and distributors. Such is also the case for the travel and tourism sector, particularly in places such as Grand Isle which depends on summertime recreationists, although clean–up–related travel may partially offset such losses. A moratorium on deepwater oil drilling will likely have an even greater economic impact throughout coastal Louisiana. Rig workers and oil–service operations will see fewer and smaller paychecks, and thus will inject less money into coastal economies. It is safe to say that nearly every business in coastal southeastern Louisiana will feel some effect of the oil disaster.

What impact will the oil disaster have on coastal Louisiana’s jobs? It is too soon to answer that question. We can, however, investigate the geography and nature of coastal employment prior to 2010 to create a baseline against which this unfurling situation and its eventual impacts on jobs may be compared.

This brief examines where jobs were located prior to the oil disaster in 2008 (the most recent available data) and what economic sectors they represented throughout the coastal region. While some maps cover from the Texas border all the way to Alabama, the brief primarily focuses on the coastal southeastern Louisiana parishes closest to the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil well. The goal is to create a baseline against which this catastrophic situation and its impacts may be compared.