Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its latest state-by-state jobs numbers, which featured some overall good news for Louisiana. The state’s June unemployment rate dropped by 4.5 percent, dipping under 10 percent for the first time in months. While this headline shows some improvement in Louisiana’s economic situation, there are reasons to take these numbers with a grain of salt.
Foremost, Louisiana added over 56,000 employees from May to June, which was a major reason for the reduction in the unemployment rate. But the 35,000-person decline in the civilian labor force was another driving factor. The civilian labor force is a measurement of those who are working and those looking for work. A decrease in this number means that people in Louisiana have stopped looking for work entirely. Those not seeking work are not calculated in the unemployment rate. This drop in the civilian labor force accounted for nearly 40 percent of the decrease in unemployment rate.
Adding to this is the fact that this period’s jobs gains occurred primarily in two sectors. Leisure and hospitality employment increased by 32,000 and trade, transportation, and utilities increased by nearly 15,000. Together, these two sectors accounted for 83 percent of the job gains in June.
With the Governor’s most recent order shutting down bars, many of the gains in the leisure and hospitality sector will almost certainly be lost when the BLS releases its July unemployment rate update.
This reality is already partially reflected in the initial unemployment claims reported weekly by the Department of Labor. The BLS numbers only account for the month of June, while the Department of Labor numbers are reported weekly. The week ending July 4 saw a nearly 10,000-person increase of those filing their initial unemployment compared to the previous week. The total number of claims on the week of July 4 was almost 32,000. The most recent data for the the week ending July 11 shows over 27,000 made an initial unemployment claim. These two numbers are substantially higher than those of the previous month-and-a-half.
Another trend of note is the number of Louisianans on unemployment insurance, which was revised upward by more than 13,000 for the week ending June 27. The Department of Labor initially said there were slightly more than 299,000 people on unemployment insurance. In reality, there were more than 313,000 on unemployment, which is higher than past weeks.
With more restrictions put in place on Louisiana entrepreneurs and workers, it’s unlikely the numbers in the next jobs report will continue trending in the right direction. In the meantime, Louisiana’s leaders should look to enact solutions to remove barriers to getting citizens of the state working as quickly and safely as possible.