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After 10 months with only part-time work, New Orleans resident James Wicht finally scored a job - in a different profession, 1,200 miles away, in a town of 3,700.
"You have to go where the jobs are," he said.
During the 30 years Frank Loria has recruited candidates for professional jobs, he's seen tough times: the national recession of the early 1980s and several petroleum price crashes that dented the Oil Patch.
But this economic slump is different: "It's the toughest we've ever seen without seeing light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
Like in the rest of the country, Louisiana jobseekers are finding employers reluctant to hire, even if business is on the upswing. There are too many questions, including whether the country might fall into a double-dip recession.
The unemployment rate gives the appearance Louisiana's economy is in much better shape than the national economy. July's state jobless rate was 7.2 percent, up from 7 percent in June. The U.S. rate for both months was 9.5 percent.
Mirroring the national economy, Louisiana is adding most of its post-meltdown jobs in health care and education services, professional and business services and leisure-hospitality.
But manufacturing employment has dropped sharply and the petroleum sector, now facing the deepwater drilling moratorium following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, has shed jobs recently.
In July, Louisiana had 20,100 more non-farm jobs than a year ago, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission. But the tally is sharply divided between the goods-producing sector and service sector.
State figures show a drop of 9,400 goods-producing jobs between July 2009 and July 2010, and a gain of 29,500 in the service sector.
Louisiana has lost 5,600 manufacturing jobs over the past year and 21,800 since July 2008.
The future promises more hits. Northrop Grumman Corp. will shutter its Avondale shipyard - where Wicht initially came to work - in 2013, ending 4,700 jobs. The defense contractor, shifting its military shipbuilding to Mississippi, will soon close its small Tallulah yard, ending 95 jobs.
With the space shuttle program ending, a payroll once totaling 5,600 at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility will dwindle to a few hundred by the end of September. And the General Motors plant in Shreveport will close in 2012, eliminating 900 jobs there.
Mining sector jobs in Louisiana - virtually all petroleum - have seen no net change over the past year, but fell by 500 from June. Nationally, petroleum extraction employment is up by 3,700 jobs over the past year.
Amid this confusing picture are people trying to find jobs, while those with employment face often overwhelming workloads, said Loria, president of the Personnel Consulting Group of New Orleans.
Loria said his clients are "sitting on the sidelines, their staffs are swimming in work and they're reluctant to hire anyone."
"They are unsure of the economy," he said.
Wicht, 35, said he came to New Orleans from Columbia, S.C., after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to work as an electronic technician at the Northrop Grumman shipyard, living on company grounds until he could find his own residence. He later moved to a computer-technical post at a law firm. That job ended in October 2009.
Wicht said he looked around New Orleans without success and finally landed temporary Census work. That recently ended. Then luck struck, thanks to his education degree. A friend contacted him on Facebook about an opening for a math teacher in Willcox, Ariz.
"This was actually the first application I put in" after the Census job, Wicht said.
Loria said some companies are starting to hire a few people - but only as a last resort to spread out the workload and keep from losing experienced, overworked staff members.
"It's not because the economic indicators are good," Loria said. "It's because they are at risk of losing staffers to less strenuous positions."