Even with the lingering impact of job losses in Louisiana's oil patch, the economy is on the upswing.
As happens so often, though, our state's growth lags behind the records set by recovery in the nation.
At 5.1 percent, the unemployment rate in Louisiana still is near the bottom group at 43rd among the states, although up from 48th in July.
That's significantly less than our oil-producing friends in Alaska, at 7.2 percent. But the overall U.S. rate fell to 4.2 percent in September from August's 4.4 percent.
In the context of the national economy, then, our state is far from a top performer.
We take any good news we can get. After all, when oil prices fell from the $100-plus per barrel to about half that, employment in the oilfield service sectors crashed. Lafayette and Houma areas were particularly hard hit.
In contrast, low natural gas prices kept the economies of oil-consuming areas — the refinery complexes along the Mississippi and Calcasieu rivers — growing from petrochemical industries' expanding.
Some of that growth may be slowing in the Baton Rouge area, but big complexes for natural gas exports are still on the books for southwestern Louisiana.
The U.S. Labor Department's separate payroll survey, economists' top labor market indicator, continued to slack off from big early-summer gains in Louisiana, with those numbers adjusted for seasonal variations. But over the course of a year, significant rebounding has occurred.
Gov. John Bel Edwards hailed the good news side of the coin on lower unemployment: "We still have a lot of areas to improve, and this is by no means mission accomplished, but it further illustrates that Louisiana’s economy is rebounding.”
He is right, but with Wall Street booming and growing demand for professional and skilled labor around the country, Louisiana faces a period when the "brain drain" of talent expands.
According to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Louisiana added 14,700 nonfarm jobs, bringing the total to 1,980,400 — very close to the landmark of 2 million at work. But if the state is to rise to that, and then above it, we ought to look to ways we can make the state more competitive in national and international markets.
A critical issue is talent, and our public universities should be better supported by the state to generate more high-quality jobs. But until the state Legislature gets its act together on reforming Louisiana's out-of-date tax system, where is the money to come from to do that?
Many such questions lie ahead. But we'll take the good news as it comes.
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