La. wages stagnant, report says

Analysis of Louisiana's workforce, released on Aug. 29, 2013.
Analysis of Louisiana's workforce, released on Aug. 29, 2013.

The median wages of Louisiana workers are only 1 percent higher today than they were in 1979, according to a study released Thursday by the Louisiana Budget Project.

Additionally, wages for the state’s workers have remained stagnant over the years, according to the analysis called “The State of Working Louisiana 2013.”

“Most workers are seeing no increase in take-home pay, even though they’re working harder and smarter than ever before,” said Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, a Baton Rouge-based group that studies economic issues from the standpoint of workers.

The group developed the analysis by comparing statistics compiled over the years by the Current Population Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Though Louisiana’s unemployment rate rose, it remained below the national average since the national recession began in late 2007. But, as the national employment picture recovers, Louisiana’s joblessness rate is increasing, the report shows.

“The rapid loss of public sector jobs is at least partly to blame for the increase in Louisiana’s unemployment rate since the start of the recession,” the report stated.

Although Louisiana has seen a spate of new manufacturing projects, overall employment in the sector has fallen 10 percent since the start of the recession in 2007 and 20 percent since 2000.

Moller said the numbers showed a slight gain in the number of jobs and big losses in the number of government postings. “Jobs are not keeping pace with population growth,” he said.

Public sector employment declined by about 15,300 state and local jobs, according to comparison of seasonally adjusted monthly payroll figures. It amounted to a 5 percent reduction. Low-wage industries, such as hospitality businesses, added about 15,900 new jobs since December 2007 while manufacturers eliminated about 14,600 net jobs since December 2007, according to the report.

“Manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have been in a long-term decline that preceded the national recession, and the national recession accelerated manufacturing job losses across our country,” Stephen Moret, secretary of the state Department of Economic Development, said in a prepared statement: “Fortunately, thanks in part to dozens of major manufacturing expansions and new manufacturing projects announced in Louisiana over the last five years, our state’s manufacturing sector has weathered the downturn about 32 percent better than the U.S. overall during that time period.”

Moret said the employment data provided by the Louisiana Budget Project showed that during the past five years, the state created substantially more private-sector jobs than the reductions in government jobs, by a factor of nearly three to one.

“Likewise, median wage data provided by LBP indicates that wages in Louisiana held up better than wages in the U.S. overall since the beginning of the national recession, despite the loss of Katrina/Rita recovery activity,” Moret wrote. “Louisiana hasn’t been immune from the deepest national recession in decades, but our state’s economy has substantially outperformed that of the South and U.S. since January 2008.”

The report found the typical worker’s pay increased by only 1 percent since 1979, but worker productivity has increased by 35 percent over that span. Louisiana workers are still facing wage gaps.

Generally, men still make more than women and white workers still make more money than black workers.

The largest pay gap is between people with different levels of educational attainment, with those who have at least a bachelor’s degree earning $8.26 an hour ($17,000 per year) more than those without one, the analysis said.

The report also found a growing disparity between wages, with those in the top 10 percent making more than $64,500 annually, and those in the bottom 10 percent, making less than $16,000 annually. Those in the top 10 percent saw a 6 percent increase while workers in the bottom 10 percent saw an 8 percent decrease, according to the report, citing Economic Policy Institute analysis of current Population Survey data.

“The Louisiana economy is working well for big corporations, but these gains are not always filtering down to their workers,” Moller said.

When asked if Gov. Bobby Jindal could comment, the governor’s press office released a prepared statement saying Louisiana’s economy outperforms the national and Southern averages for job growth. The press office statement also claimed the state’s per capita personal income has increased by more than $3,600 during the last five years.