Jobs up in BR, N.O., Lafayette

The number of nonfarm jobs in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette and the state continued to increase in April, but at a slower pace than in previous months, according to figures released Thursday by the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

Louisiana gained 19,500 jobs over the 12-month period that started in April 2012. The 1 percent increase put the statewide jobs total at just over 1.95 million, according to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In March, the state added 27,700 jobs, for 1.4 percent growth since March 2012.

At the same time, the unemployment rate statewide and in six of Louisiana’s eight metro areas increased slightly. Baton Rouge and Lake Charles were the only cities to see unemployment rates drop in April.

“It is a slowdown, but the numbers are gonna bounce around because of the source,” economist Loren Scott said. “All these numbers are coming out of D.C. now and not from the state.”

Scott said the fundamentals of Louisiana’s economy remain the same — growth in cities along or south of Interstate 10 and declining jobs in the northern part of the state.

Louisiana’s civilian labor force, which includes people who are working and also unemployed people who are looking for jobs, increased by 6,006 for the year, putting the labor force at nearly 2.1 million.

“The long-term trends for Louisiana have been strong for well over two years now and remain strong,” 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 6,900 during the 12-month period. That 1.8 percent gain put the Capital Region at 383,000 jobs.

The city saw job gains in a number of sectors, most notably construction, which went to 46,700 jobs in April from 40,100 a year earlier, and professional and business services, which increased to 46,600 from 44,800.

Scott said Baton Rouge should continue to add construction jobs because of the chemical and petrochemical projects that have been announced in recent months.

“A huge spike is about to occur,” he said. “We expect those construction numbers to improve a lot over the next two years.”

NEW ORLEANS: The metro area added 2,300 jobs in the April report, bumping the Crescent City up to 535,000. That was an increase of 0.4 percent from a year ago. The city saw gains in the number of goods-producing jobs, going to 70,500 from 67,800, and education and health service jobs, which went to 80,700 from 78,400.

Scott said those numbers were good, in light of the ongoing layoffs happening at Avondale as production at the shipyard winds down.

“There are huge health care facilities under construction in New Orleans and the expansion of the Valero refinery,” he said.

LAFAYETTE: Lafayette added 1,700 jobs, a gain of 1 percent, to come in at 158,100 for the 12-month period. Much of that gain came from an increase in private service-providing jobs, which were up 2,000 for the 12-month period to 104,900.

Scott said he doubted the Lafayette numbers, saying they should be higher. He blamed the discrepancy on how the data is being gathered. Ironically, Scott criticized the Lafayette numbers last year, saying they reflected a much higher rate of growth than was actually going on.

Activity in the Gulf of Mexico is back, he said. “Lafayette is at least growing as fast as Houma is.”

OTHER METRO AREAS: Lake Charles added 2,700 jobs in the 12-month period ending in April to come in at 92,900; Houma-Thibodaux added 2,000 jobs to reach 96,000; and Monroe added 600 jobs for a total of 77,600.

Shreveport-Bossier, which has been hard hit by the shutdown of the General Motors plant, layoffs at Libbey Glass and the relocation of A-10 tank-killing planes from Barksdale Air Force Base, lost 3,100 jobs from April to April, for total employment of 175,700. Alexandria had an 800-job decrease for total employment of 62,800.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in March was 6.5 percent. Louisiana was well below the national unemployment average of 7.5 percent. The state’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in April was 6.2 percent, the workforce commission reported. That’s up from 6 percent in March.

Lafayette had a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.6 percent in April, far below the state average, but up from 4.4 percent in March. New Orleans had a 6.2 percent unemployment rate, right at the state average and up from 6.1 percent in March.

Baton Rouge came in at 5.9 percent, below the state average and down from 6 percent in March.