The number of nonfarm jobs in Louisiana dropped by 4,700 from April to May, as most sectors saw declines in workers.
There were 1,829,200 jobs in Louisiana during May, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s down from 1,833,900 in April. The numbers are seasonally adjusted to smooth out month-to-month differences in employment that can be caused by circumstances such as holiday shopping or schools getting out. Month-to-month numbers are being used vs. year-over-year to better gauge the jobs recovery from the pandemic.
Stephen Barnes, director of the Blanco Public Policy Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and an associate professor of economics, said the month-to-month drop may be due to a reporting quirk. Most of the state's metro areas added a few hundred jobs from April to May, although New Orleans lost 100 jobs and Baton Rouge was unchanged. Because the metro areas drive job growth, this either means there was an issue with collecting data or rural areas have been hard hit.
As the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, Barnes said the labor markets are in “enormous turmoil." It’s been widely discussed how much trouble some businesses are having finding workers, but there are also other factors.
“A lot of workers who may have weathered the pandemic are starting to make moves and find new job opportunities,” he said. People who held on to their jobs have been able to save money because there was less spending going on during the pandemic, so they are better positioned to leave a secure job.
The other thing is the shift to remote work. There may be issues in counting jobs, based on where people live and where the company they work for are located, Barnes said.
The state has added 96,400 jobs since May 2020, when the number of workers had plummeted to 1,732,800 because of the lockdowns put in place to control the spread of COVID-19. The state is still down 141,200 jobs from the 1,971,100 it had in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.
Economist Loren Scott said Louisiana has been affected more than other states by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
“It’s been a weird recession in that it’s been led by the service sector,” he said. “Leisure and hospitality was torpedoed.”
Along with tourism, another pillar of the state’s economy has also been affected — the oil and gas industry. “The refining sector was nailed when people quit driving and quit flying,” Scott said. While people have started driving more, the airline industry still hasn’t fully recovered. Louisiana has also been hurt by the Biden administration’s efforts to lessen dependence on fossil fuels, which Scott dubbed “an attack on the oil and gas industry.”
Despite the drop in the number of jobs, the state’s unemployment rate fell slightly from 7.2% in April to 7.1% in May.
The total number of private sector jobs dropped by 3,800 to 1,516,900. Government jobs also were down, going from 313,200 in April to 312,300.
The biggest drop was in manufacturing, which shed 1,600 jobs, or 1.3%, to 125,400. Construction lost 800 jobs, or 0.7%, to 116,300; education and health services, 1,600 jobs, or 0.5%, to 310,300; leisure and hospitality, 500 jobs, or 0.3%, to 193,900; trade, transportation and utilities, 1,000 jobs, or 0.3%, to 361,700.
Professional and business services was up 600 jobs, or 0.3%, to 206,500, while financial activities gained 300 jobs, or 0.3% to 89,000.