Settle: Shreveport unemployment should be mayoral campaign issue

Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler recently said that she was going to run for re-election this year based on her accomplishments in office.

Both Tyler’s announced candidates Adrian Perkins and Lee O. Savage have listed economic development as major planks in their platforms.

Perkins has vowed to set up a three-person highly skilled economic development team in the mayor’s office if elected. Savage has questioned the effectiveness of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP) as it relates to bringing jobs to Shreveport.

Data released by the Louisiana Workforce Commission on Friday, April 20 showed that the state’s nonfarm job sector added 12,500 jobs from March 2017. This is the sixth straight over-the-year increase from February 2018. And it is the largest over-the-month gain for the month of March since 2010.

But the data for Shreveport metropolitan statistical area (MSA) was NOT good. The Shreveport MSA includes all of Caddo, Bossier, Webster, and Desoto Parishes.

The March 2018 Shreveport MSA unemployment rate for nonfarm jobs was 4.7 percent. The rate was 4.2 percent in February 2018.

Statewide, the unemployment rate for nonfarm jobs was 4.4 percent. The last time the state’s nonfarm unemployment rate was below this level was April 2008.

The average weekly wage in the Shreveport SMA for February (private employment) was $667.49. The average weekly hours was 33.9 and the average hourly earnings were $19.69.

The average weekly wage for the Shreveport SMA was the third lowest in the state. Only Hammond and Alexandria had lower weekly private employment wages.

The average weekly hours for the Shreveport SMA was also the third lowest in the state.

The average private sector hourly earnings for the Shreveport SMA was the second lowest in the state.

Admittedly, the statistics are not just for Shreveport. Many believe that the actual Shreveport numbers are worse than the SMA because of the numerous large private sector employers in Bossier Parish.

No matter what spin is placed on the unemployment statistics, it is evident that the state numbers confirm what is general street knowledge: Shreveport needs jobs.

Hopefully, Mayor Tyler will make a big dent in Shreveport’s unemployment rate in the near future if she wants to be the next mayor.

John Settle is a Shreveport-Bossier political columnist