Just in time for the Independence Day Holiday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released some good news for the American people. The national unemployment rate fell 2.2 percent, leading to a total of 11.1 percent in June. Most notably, an astounding 4.8 million Americans who were temporarily laid off are now back in the workforce.
But even with this good news, 10.6 million remain temporarily laid off, and there are still 12 million more unemployed people than in February. The BLS also released the May statistics for metro areas of Louisiana, and the numbers show the extent of the damages to the state’s major population centers.
With more than 40 percent of the job losses coming from Louisiana’s Leisure and Hospitality Sector, it’s no surprise that tourism-dependent New Orleans has faced the largest number of job losses. More than 98,000 fewer people were employed in May 2020 than May 2019. These 98,000 people who were no longer employed account for more than 40 percent of the total job losses in the state.
It is true that New Orleans is the largest population center and should therefore also have the largest number of job losses. However, even on a percentage basis, New Orleans was still the hardest hit. The city experienced a 16.8 percent decline in the number of employed persons from May 2019 to May 2020.
New Orleans is hardly the only area of the state struggling. Seven of the nine metro areas saw a more than 10 percent decline in the number of employed persons between May 2019 and May 2020. Lake Charles had the next largest percentage decrease, with 14.2 percent. Meanwhile, Baton Rouge had the second largest numerical decline, with 44,300 people finding themselves out of a job.
The Department of Labor unemployment claims, which were also released this week, offer little optimism. The number of new unemployment claims continued to sit at just over 20,000, and there was little change in the number of Louisianans on unemployment. Approximately 300,000 people are still depending on an unemployment check to make ends meet, nearly 25 times more people than in February 2020.
While the good national news should be embraced, it’s clear much more needs to be done to Get Louisiana Working. The legislature took an important step forward by passing key legal reforms during the recently concluded special session, however, more fundamental changes are needed. Louisiana still has the highest business tax in the South, and burdensome occupational licensing laws are preventing many people from finding jobs to support themselves and their families. We need to remove as many barriers to jobs and opportunity as possible.
If Louisiana wants to join in on the good national economic news tomorrow, we must reject the broken status quo that has led us to where we are today.