WHITING | The $3.8 billion BP Whiting refinery project is set to wrap up later this year and layoffs of involved construction workers are expected.
This week, Meade Electric Co. Inc. issued a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification notice it plans to lay off 569 employees working on the massive BP project starting in late June.
Meade Electric was required to issue the notice because the employees are non-union, according to the WARN notice. It also will be laying off an unspecified number of union workers, but they were hired on a project basis through union hiring halls and are not entitled to a WARN notice.
The Meade Electric layoffs will begin June 28 and are expected to continue over the following four months, according to the notice.
The refinery project began in May 2008 and has had as many as 10,000 skilled tradespeople working on the project during peak activity, according to BP.
The refinery is being upgraded to process more oil from Canada's tar sands, which are heavier than sweet crude and contain more impurities such as sulfur. A new crude distillation unit and petroleum coker are part of the project.
BP spokesman Scott Dean confirmed Wednesday the project is on schedule.
The layoff effects on region employment may be softened some by the fact many of the skilled trades workers on the refinery project are not from the region but are what are known as "travelers," said Micah Pollak, an assistant professor of economics at Indiana University Northwest.
However, local gas stations, eateries and stores will notice the sudden population loss as those trades workers leave the region for work elsewhere, Pollak said.
Northwest Indiana's non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 10.3 percent in March. The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.7 percent that month. The national rate is 7.6 percent.