N.O. area adds 1,100 jobs

The number of nonfarm jobs in the New Orleans metro area increased by 1,100 from December 2011 to last month, according to figures released Friday by the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

That less than 1 percent gain put the Crescent City at 530,400 jobs. The metro area saw a significant job gain in private-service providers, going from 380,300 in December 2011 to 386,000 last month.

Economist Loren Scott said New Orleans’ modest numbers fit what is going on around the city, like the ongoing shutdown of the Avondale Shipyard set to close at the end of 2013. But Scott questioned some metro numbers because of a recent change in how the figures are collected. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics took over the process more than a year ago. Before that, the figures came from the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

Lafayette was the biggest job gainer out of Louisiana metro areas, adding 13,500 jobs from December 2011, to put the area at 170,000 jobs. That was an 8.6 percent gain. Baton Rouge was unchanged during the same period, staying at 371,400.

Other Louisiana metro areas to post job gains for the 12-month period through December were Houma-Thibodaux, which added 2,000 jobs to top 97,700; Monroe, which added 1,400 jobs to come in at 78,400; and Lake Charles, which was up to 89,300, 1,000 more than the year before.

Shreveport-Bossier City, which was hit by the recent closing of a General Motors plant, dropped to 177,900 jobs in December from 179,000 in 2011. And Alexandria posted a modest 200-job decrease, going to 63,200.

Louisiana saw the number of nonfarm jobs increase by 23,600, or 1.2 percent, over the year, putting the statewide total up to 1,961,500.

“That’s a record level for us,” Scott said. “We’re getting real close to the 2 million job mark.”

Louisiana is on track to top 2 million jobs by the end of the year or early 2014, thanks to the booming chemical industry, he said.

Scott said Louisiana is one of the few states that has seen an increase in jobs since the start of the Great Recession.

“I was in Alabama this week for a speech and they’re still 100,000 jobs below where they were in 2008,” he said.

Statewide, the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent. The figure is not seasonally adjusted. New Orleans was also at the state average of 5.5 percent, while Lafayette’s unemployment rate was 3.7 percent. Baton Rouge had a 5.4 percent rate.