BR, N.O., Lafayette add jobs in March

The number of nonfarm jobs in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette and the state as a whole increased from March 2012 to March 2013, according to figures released Thursday by the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

Louisiana gained 28,900 jobs over the 12-month period, or a 1.5 percent increase, putting the statewide total at nearly 1.95 million, according to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Economist Loren Scott said the state is split in two. Along Interstate 10 and below “there’s lots of good strong growth,” but Monroe was the only metro area in north and central Louisiana to post increased jobs for the 12-month period.

While cheap natural gas and increased offshore drilling activity are helping cities such as Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Houma-Thibodaux and Lake Charles, low prices have caused drilling activity to slow in the Haynesville Shale, hurting the Shreveport area, Scott said.

Louisiana’s civilian labor force, which includes people who are working and unemployed people who are looking for jobs, was down by 2,870 for the year, putting the labor force at just over 2.06 million.

“Louisiana employers continue to add jobs, which is why the unemployment rate in most of the state was better in March than a year ago,” Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, said in a statement.

BATON ROUGE: The number of nonfarm jobs in metro Baton Rouge increased by 7,500 during the 12-month period. That 2 percent gain put the Capital Region at 381,700 jobs.

The city saw job gains in a number of sectors, most notably construction, which went to 46,000 jobs in March from 40,100 a year earlier, and professional and business services, which increased to 46,700 from 43,900. Scott said those construction jobs should only go up, as a number of announced projects in the chemical and petrochemical energy begin to gear up.

NEW ORLEANS: The metro area added 7,600 jobs in March, bumping the Crescent City up to 535,200. That was an increase of 1.4 percent from a year ago. The city saw gains in the number of professional and business service jobs, going up to 72,500 from 69,200, and administrative and support service jobs, which went to 34,500 from 30,900.

New Orleans saw gains even as production at Avondale shipyards winds down. The shipyard is set to close this year, although owner Huntington Ingalls Industries is trying to lure energy infrastructure projects to the facility.

Several things are driving employment in New Orleans, including a project to build liquefied natural gas tanks at the Michoud Assembly Facility, a new charity hospital and a VA facility.

“They’ve got some things going on in the construction side,” Scott said.

LAFAYETTE: Lafayette added 2,900 jobs, a gain of 1.9 percent, to come in at 157,800 for March. Much of that gain came from an increase in private service-providing jobs, which were up 3,000 for the 12-month period to 104,700.

Offshore drilling has picked up because of rising crude oil prices. This month, the number of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico should be back to what they were before the Deepwater Horizon disaster and subsequent federal moratorium on drilling, Scott said.

“Those numbers are continuing to go up,” he said.

OTHER METRO AREAS: Lake Charles added 2,600 jobs in the 12-month period ending in March to come in at 92,700; Houma-Thibodaux added 2,100 jobs to reach 95,800; and Monroe added 700 jobs for a total of 77,500.

Shreveport-Bossier, which has been hard hit by the shutdown of the General Motors plant and layoffs at Libbey Glass, lost 2,800 jobs from March to March, for total employment of 175,300. Alexandria had a 700-job decrease for total employment of 62,600.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in March was 6.2 percent. Louisiana was well below the national unemployment average of 7.6 percent. The state’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in March was 6 percent, the workforce commission reported.

Lafayette had a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.3 percent in March, far below the state average, while Baton Rouge also beat state numbers, coming in at 5.8 percent, and New Orleans had a 6 percent unemployment rate.