By William Patrick, The Center Square
Louisiana’s unemployment rate continues to trend downward according to new data from the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC), though the state still lags behind its pre-COVID-19 job numbers.
Louisiana’s unemployment rate fell to 4.3% in October, the most recent information available, showing a significant improvement from the same period last year when the unemployment rate was 7.5%.
“The rate also shows a decrease of 0.6 percentage points from the September 2021 revised rate of 4.9 percent,” the agency said.
The figures mirror a national trend where the U.S. unemployment rate for the month of October dropped to 4.6%. But Stephen Waguespack, president and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, is cautioning against too much optimism.
“While this report is good news, we also know there is still hard work to do to get back to pre-pandemic employment levels,” Waguespack said in an email statement regarding the Louisiana jobs report and the U.S. economy.
“There are over 10 million jobs available in the U.S. today, but employers in all industries are scrambling to hire and retain workers while managing other pressures, ranging from supply chain challenges to inflation being at a 31-year high. It’s imperative that leaders at all levels take market-driven actions to get people back to work and rebuild the American economy,” he said.
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry represents more than 2,000 businesses in the state and serves as the Louisiana chapter of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers.
According to LWC, an estimated 1,868,100 workers were employed in October, whereas the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported nearly 2 million workers in Louisiana in March 2020, or just before COVID-19 lockdowns led to mass job losses and business closures.
Louisiana’s October 2021 job growth increased in all nine of the state’s major metropolitan areas, LWC said, with each showing declining unemployment for the seventh consecutive month compared to the same months in 2020.
Alexandria, Baton Rouge and Hammond showed the steepest declines, the report showed. New Orleans’s 5.1% unemployment rate was higher than the overall state rate, though it was nearly half of the city’s 9.1% unemployment rate in October 2020.
The leisure and hospitality industry showed the most gains since LWC’s previous jobs report in September 2021, with more than 13,000 new jobs. The construction industry gained 9,800 new jobs from September to October, and the professional and business services industry grew by 8,800 jobs during the period, the report said.
Jobless claims in the state have also declined, as LWC’s most recent unemployment benefits data show 1,628 new claims for the week ending Nov. 20. For the week ending Jan. 2, 2021, nearly 22,500 new unemployment claims had been filed.