La. adds 18,100 jobs over 12 months, jobless rate drops

Louisiana had one of the 12 lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in the nation in January, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Monday.

Preliminary but seasonally adjusted numbers showed 1,956,300 Louisiana residents held nonfarm payroll jobs in January, the BLS reported.

That is 18,100 more jobs than Louisiana residents held in January 2013.

North Dakota had the best unemployment rate in the U.S., 2.6 percent. At 3.6 percent, South Dakota was right behind its neighbor.

Louisiana and New Hampshire ended January tied for 11th place at 4.9 percent.

Rhode Island had the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 9.2 percent.

“Today’s announcement further validates the fact that Louisiana’s economy is improving at one of the fastest rates in the nation,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said after the BLS statistics were released. “We have now … decreased our unemployment rate to the lowest in the Southern region, its lowest point since September 2008.”

Retired LSU economist Loren Scott said the pace of the job expansion for Louisiana is “a little bit of a slowdown, but the good news is that we’re still growing.”

In addition, Scott said, Monday’s numbers show “We’re only about 44,000 jobs away from breaking through a very significant barrier for this state — 2 million jobs. We have never been there before.”

Scott recalled Louisiana was nearing that employment milestone before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and other areas in the southeastern part of the state. Before the state could fully recover from those losses, the Great Recession struck hard in 2008.

Now, natural gas processors and other industries are preparing to spend billions of dollars on new or expanding plants in the state.

“If you look forward, there is every indication that the next couple of years are going to be very good for us,” Scott said.

There were other favorable findings in January’s job numbers.

BLS officials reported Louisiana, Michigan and Tennessee had the largest one-month unemployment rate declines in January, down 0.5 percent.

And Jindal added Louisiana’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January, 4.9 percent, was the best in the 17-state Southern region.

The governor also said the rate was Louisiana’s lowest since September 2008.

As a region, the Southern states had the lowest unemployment rate, 6.2 percent.

Nationally, BLS officials reported, the unemployment rate was 6.6 percent, 1.3 percentage points less than in January 2013.

In Louisiana for the one-year period from January 2013 through January 2014, in seasonally adjusted numbers, the only job sector to lose ground was government. Those jobs dropped by 7,200 to a new total of 336,100.

The biggest gain of 10,000 new jobs occurred in leisure and hospitality, which recorded a total of 220,700.

Construction jobs increased to 130,900, an uptick of 1,000.

Manufacturing paychecks bumped up 2,700 to 146,500.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector added 5,300 jobs for 386,000.

There were 1,700 more jobs in financial activities, hitting 96,000.

Professional and business services jobs increased by 2,100 to 207,000.

An additional 4,200 jobs in education and health services pushed that sector’s January total to 291,600.