Our Views: No parade for jobs?

Maybe we’re just too blasé about jobs and growth these days in Louisiana.

When a normal state gets a billion-dollar investment, they’re likely to throw a parade. Here, it seems like it is just one more in a long string of the billion-dollar, or ten-billion-dollar, investments we’re seeing in Louisiana’s petrochemical industries.

And that’s not counting the many billions — there that B number is again — for export terminals for liquefied natural gas.

So if we are too blasé, we ought not be about a much smaller number that marks a big milestone.

In March, the state’s job count hit a new peak for the sixth month in a row. We’re at 2 million jobs, an all-time high.

As noted by Curt Eysink, head of the state Workforce Commission, that record number undercounts our potential, because most of those multi-billion projects mentioned above are still on the drawing boards. Only some of them have started hiring so far, and so there is likely to be a positive impetus for job growth over the next couple of years at least.

Hardly a week goes by that Gov. Bobby Jindal does not have a chance to cut a ribbon or throw a shovel of dirt for a new business locating in the state or expanding here.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data is a broad measure of employment and it might change, as it is one of the more volatile measures of job counts in a state, but the trend will prevail, says Stephen Moret, head of the state’s economic development efforts.

“The question for me is not whether we’ll sustain this position, but how much we can build upon it,” Moret said.

He noted the fast growth in the tech sector, what had been a small part of the state’s economy but has blossomed with high-profile announcements from New Orleans and Jefferson to Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Shreveport. He spoke recently with new IBM hires in Baton Rouge, who had finished college in Houston and found their best opportunities in Louisiana. We can recall when hundreds and ultimately thousands of Louisiana graduates were moving the other way.

Many of the jobs — and the skilled workers and college graduates who perform them — are coming to our state in high-growth industries, such as software engineering or digital media. Those will grow faster than many of Louisiana’s traditional employment opportunities.

We have a chance, Moret said, “to not just diversity but to accelerate our growth.”

Now that’s something to celebrate and see as a new aspiration above and beyond the milestone marked by the BLS report.