The number of nonfarm jobs in the Baton Rouge metro area held steady at 371,400 from December 2011 to last month, according to figures released Friday by the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
Baton Rouge added 5,400 construction jobs over the 12-month period, but saw an offset from losses in the number of service and government jobs.
Economist Loren Scott said some of the Capital Region numbers were “odd,” like a drop of 1,800 education jobs, 1,500 leisure and hospitality jobs and 2,000 local government jobs.
“I don’t think LSU is down that much,” he said. “And the local government numbers are very, very peculiar.”
Scott said East Baton Rouge sales tax collections are continuing to increase and local employment companies, like Frazee Recruiting Consultants, are seeing more business.
“That doesn’t fit with an area that is only growing zero,” he said.
The discrepancy in local numbers could be caused by a change in how the numbers are collected, Scott said. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics took over the process more than a year ago. Before that, the figures came from the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
Lafayette was the biggest job gainer out of Louisiana metro areas, adding 13,500 jobs from December 2011, to put the area at 170,000 jobs. That was an 8.6 percent gain. New Orleans added 1,100 jobs during the same period, bumping the Crescent City up to 530,400. That was an increase of less than 1 percent.
Other Louisiana metro areas to post job gains in December were Houma-Thibodaux, which added 2,000 jobs in the 12-month period to top 97,700; Monroe, which added 1,400 jobs to come in at 78,400; and Lake Charles, which was up to 89,300, 1,000 more than the year before.
Shreveport-Bossier City, which was hit by the recent closing of a General Motors plant, dropped to 177,900 jobs in December from 179,000 in 2011. And Alexandria posted a modest 200-job decrease, going to 63,200.
Louisiana saw the number of nonfarm jobs increase by 23,600, or 1.2 percent, over the year, putting the statewide total up to 1,961,500.
“That’s a record level for us,” Scott said. “We’re getting real close to the 2 million job mark.”
Louisiana is on track to top 2 million jobs by the end of the year or early 2014, thanks to the booming chemical industry, he said.
Scott said Louisiana is one of the few states that has seen an increase in jobs since the start of the Great Recession.
“I was in Alabama this week for a speech and they’re still 100,000 jobs below where they were in 2008,” he said.
Statewide the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent. The figure is not seasonally adjusted. Baton Rouge had a 5.4 percent rate, while New Orleans was at the state average at 5.5 percent. Lafayette’s unemployment rate was 3.7 percent.