The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ (BEA) latest report, which showed that Louisiana personal income grew in the first quarter by 2.2 percent, appeared to be a welcome sight for a state still reckoning with the fallout of COVID-19 and subsequent economic shutdown.
However, a closer look at the numbers reveals the income growth is a mirage. Though this data only looked at the first three months of the year, Louisianans’ income from working dipped disastrously. Net earnings, which are the wages people earn from working, decreased 1.4 percent. Meanwhile, transfer receipts, or money given by the government, shot up by an astounding 13 percent.
Translated to real numbers, wages decreased by $466 million, while government money increased by $1.5 billion. Given that the biggest losses of wages by sector were accommodation and food services, oil and gas, and healthcare, it’s unsurprising these industries saw the largest number of job losses.
Unfortunately, this trend of wage losses and reliance on government income appears to only be increasing.
Once again, the numbers from the Department of Labor on weekly unemployment insurance claims shows Louisiana’s economy is at a standstill. New unemployment claims were once again just over 20,000, while those on unemployment insurance remains just below 300,000. Both of these numbers have essentially remained unchanged over the past month.
And with the decision to keep the state in Phase 2 for another month, it’s likely that far too many Louisianans will continue depending on government transfers moving forward.
For this is to change, state leaders must enact key reform solutions to Get Louisiana Working. This includes but is not limited to fostering a flatter and fairer tax system, fixing the state’s abused and broken legal system, and lifting government barriers to jobs and opportunity.
Making these major reforms a reality will require an active, engaged citizenry demanding them and bold leaders willing to act on those demands. But make no mistake, these policy solutions are needed now, more than ever before in our state’s history.