Unemployment in Port Arthur, Texas
Burton, Edwin Thomas, 1942-
Giles, James B.
Master of Arts
Port Arthur, Texas has been a chronic labor surplus area since the end of World War II. In this thesis, an effort is made to analyze continuing high unemployment levels in an area with relatively high wages. There are two factors in the Port Arthur economy that serve to explain this phenomenon. First, the existence of widespread unionization has helped to keep wage levels high not only within organized sectors of employment, but within unorganized sectors as well through the operation of the "umbrella effect." Second, much of Port Arthur's industry is highly capital-intensive and thus labor receives a relatively high wage because labor costs are not a significant portion of total costs. This is particularly characteristic of the chemicals industry and the petroleum refining industry, two industries which together comprise a large amount of the total employment in Port Arthur. An examination of technological change in one of the large petroleum refineries in Port Arthur showed evidence of much substitution of capital for labor within the refinery. Employment within the Operations and Maintenance Division of this particular refinery was halved in a period of eight years. Union officials indicated that this trend toward complete automation of the refineries shows no sign of slowing down. The situation in the chemicals industry is similar. The chemicals industry in Port Arthur has experienced rapid growth in the past ten years, but has provided relatively few jobs, due to its high level of capital-intensiveness. The Port Arthur employment problem is likely to become very acute in the near future as more and more young persons enter the labor force. The percentage of the population of Port Arthur in 1960 within the 5 to 14 years of age group was high relative'to previous years. This means the mid...19601s should experience a significantly large growth in the. Port Arthur labor force. TO find jobs for this increase in the labor force, it is suggested, that labor mobility be increased from Port Arthur to other areas where more job opportunities exist and that new industries, suited to a high-wage industrial community, should be attracted to the Port Arthur area.