Job gains appear to be booming all across the state, except for Baton Rouge.
The Louisiana Workforce Commission reported Wednesday that the capital region lost 4,900 nonfarm jobs — or 1.4 percent — in August, compared with a year before, in a monthly report that drew skepticism from two local economists.
Baton Rouge lost some 4,100 jobs in the service-providing sectors — a wide swath of industries ranging from retail to transportation to professional and financial activities.
The decline is at a depth not seen since April 2010, when Baton Rouge posted a year-over-year job loss of 5,900 jobs.
“I do not know what we can really say about the numbers,” said Loren Scott, a retired LSU economist and longtime follower of the state’s economy. “The numbers for Baton Rouge make no sense, nor do the ones for New Orleans.”
New Orleans posted a 10,500-job gain — or 2 percent — compared with a year before, all of that gain in the service sectors.
In March, the Louisiana Workforce Commission ceded the task of collecting the state’s job data to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This transition could result in some inaccurate data, officials said at the time.
“My thought is that the change in the methods of collecting and computing the numbers makes it difficult to compare the 2011 numbers, at least since March ... to the 2010 numbers,” James A. Richardson, a longtime LSU economist, wrote in an email.
“There are enough oddities in the comparisons to make us less than confident that the big change in jobs in New Orleans is related to economic vitality or to merely the change in the method of processing the numbers,” Richardson said.
“The same is true for the implications that Baton Rouge has lost considerable jobs,” he added. “We are looking for collaborating evidence and cannot find enough to substantiate that type of change in either New Orleans or Baton Rouge.”
Houma posted strong job gains in August, picking up 3,100 jobs, a 3.3 percent increase from a year before. The big gains there were also service-sector jobs, according to the report.
Lafayette gained 2,800 jobs, a 1.9 percent increase since last year, with the goods-producing and service-providing sectors each gaining 1,400 jobs.
In Lake Charles, business activity translated to an increase of 2,300 jobs in August, a 2.6 percent gain since last year. The goods-producing sector added 500 jobs in the last year, and the service-providing sector gained 1,800 jobs.
Alexandria gained 2,500 jobs since a year ago — or 3.2 percent — nearly all of those in the service-providing sectors.
Shreveport gained 2,900 jobs, a 1.6 percent increase since last year, with service-providing sectors adding 1,900 jobs and goods-producing creating 1,000.
Monroe saw the smallest job gain, picking up 700 jobs since last year, a 0.9 percent increase, with slight gains coming from goods-producing and service-providing sectors.
The state as a whole posted a year-over-year gain of 30,300 jobs in August, with education and health services accounting for most of these increases, the workforce commission reported. Government sectors continue to shed jobs, losing 8,400 jobs in the last year. Professional and business services lost 2,800 jobs from last August, while other services showed a loss of 400 jobs.
The state’s not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in August, compared to the U.S. rate of 9.1 percent.
Monroe posted the highest unemployment rate at 7.7 percent, followed by Baton Rouge with a jobless rate of 7.6 percent. The August unemployment rate in New Orleans was 7.3 percent, followed by Alexandria with 6.9 percent and Shreveport at 6.7 percent. Lake Charles posted an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent followed by Lafayette with 5.6 percent and Houma with 4.9 percent.