BR-area employment edges up 600

The number of people employed in nonfarm work in the nine-parish Baton Rouge area in December grew by just 600 over the 2012 total of 382,700.

Not seasonally adjusted figures released by the Louisiana Workforce Commission showed a decrease of 1,500 construction jobs across the parishes of East and West Baton Rouge, East and West Feliciana, Ascension, Livingston, Iberville, Pointe Coupee and St. Helena.

And that estimated decrease sparked disbelief Friday from retired LSU economist Loren Scott.

Scott contends employment numbers often have been off the mark since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics took control of those estimates several years ago. Although those numbers are released by state labor departments, Scott said, they are compiled in Washington, D.C.

“Some of these numbers have started looking goofy,” Scott added.

The economist said there are several ongoing construction projects in Baton Rouge and the surrounding area.

“For someone who lives here, this makes no sense,” Scott said of the estimated downturn in area construction jobs.

An increase of 2,700 jobs in the education and health services sector enabled Baton Rouge to show an overall uptick of 600.

In the Lafayette metropolitan statistical area, 4,400 more jobs were reported for December than a year earlier.

“That’s really good,” Scott said. “That makes sense.”

Leading the way for Lafayette and its neighbors were 1,500 new jobs in leisure and hospitality; 900 in the trade, transportation and utilities sector; 800 in construction; and 500 in manufacturing.

But Scott was even more impressed with growth in the Lake Charles area, a smaller population that reportedly achieved a 4.98 percent growth rate that led to 4,600 new jobs.

“That’s humongous,” Scott said, noting that several companies have announced plans for spending more than $40 billion on industrial projects in Calcasieu Parish.

“The construction sector there is up almost 28 percent (2,700 of the new jobs),” Scott added. “They’re really rocking and rolling in Lake Charles.”

Meanwhile, growth in non-farm employment in the New Orleans area was estimated at 900 new jobs.

The area surrounding the state’s largest tourist attraction attracted 1,600 new jobs in trade, transportation, utilities and 1,200 additional jobs in leisure and hospitality. The gains in those sectors overcame the loss of an estimated 2,200 education and health services jobs.

The Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux area enjoyed an increase of 2,300 jobs in 2013.

The Alexandria area’s annual job growth was estimated at 600.

The Shreveport-Bossier City area reportedly had 300 more jobs than a year earlier.

Only the Monroe area experienced a reported overall job loss. That loss was estimated at 200.