Baton Rouge added 500 jobs during the 12 months ending in July, essentially flat in a workforce of 359,800 people, figures released by the Louisiana Workforce Commission show.
Economist Loren Scott, who has closely tracked the numbers for years, said a change this spring in how the numbers are generated makes any meaningful comparison difficult.
In May, the state Workforce Commission began using figures generated by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, though the 2010 numbers are still based on samples taken by the Workforce Commission.
“Basically, we’re trying to compare apples numbers to oranges numbers,” he said. “We’re going to have to get a year beyond this (change) before we can really tell what is happening.”
Scott noted that big gains posted by Alexandria — 2,400 jobs, an increase of 3.8 percent — and New Orleans — 13,700 jobs, an increase of 2.7 percent — make no sense in light of what’s going on in their economies.
“Alexandria at a 3.8 percent rate?” he said. “Alexandria has never grown at a 3.8 percent rate. And New Orleans … it’s been years and years since New Orleans has done anything near that.”
Statewide, the figures showed Louisiana added 32,100 to finish the 12-month period ending in July with 1,904,000, an increase of 1.7 percent. Scott said the year-over-year gain in last month’s numbers, for June, was 0.6 percent, which he said has no bearing on what’s actually happening.
Scott said Baton Rouge is likely in better shape than the numbers suggest.
“The Baton Rouge numbers are particularly goofy,” he said, noting the health of the petrochemical industry would typically be enough to offset the doldrums in other sectors.
After spending almost all of 2010 on the decline, for example, sales tax collections in East Baton Rouge Parish have been on the rise all year.
Scott pointed out the only numbers that look right are the ones in which there has been enough of a swing, such as government, real estate and shipbuilding.
Looking at the numbers for the Baton Rouge metro area, seven sectors posted gains over the 12-month period:
• The construction sector rose by only 100 workers to 37,700, an increase of 0.3 percent.
• The mining sector, which includes oil and gas, added 100 jobs to settle at 2,000, an increase of 5.3 percent.
• Manufacturing added 200 jobs to finish at 24,900, an increase of 0.8 percent.
• Trade, transportation and utilities added 600 jobs to finish at 64,600, an increase of 0.9 percent.
• Information added 300 jobs to settle at 5,300, an increase of 6.0 percent.
• Professional and business services added 400 jobs to finish at 42,100, an increase of 1.0 percent.
• Leisure and hospitality added 400 jobs to finish at 32,800, an increase of 1.2 percent.
Four sectors lost jobs:
• The financial activities sector dropped 300 jobs to finish at 16,500, a decline of 1.8 percent.
• Education and health services lost 300 jobs to finish at 48,400, a decline of 0.6 percent.
• The “other” category lost 200 jobs to finish at 12,900, a decline of 1.5 percent.
• The government sector lost 800 jobs to finish at 72,600, a decline of 2.5 percent.
Looking at the other metro areas, Lafayette added 1,300 jobs to finish at 148,500, an increase of 0.9 percent; Lake Charles added 1,700 jobs to finish at 90,900 jobs, an increase of 1.9 percent; Shreveport-Bossier City added 2,900 jobs to finish at 181,200, an increase of 1.6 percent; Monroe lost 300 jobs to finish at 75,100, a decline of 0.4 percent; and Houma-Thibodaux added 2,300 jobs to finish at 95,400, an increase of 2.5 percent.