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Javier Pallais, director of operations at Twin Peaks restaurant in Baton Rouge, looks at his laptop behind the bar surrounded by stacked chairs as he and managerial staff planned last month for a loosening of state stay-at-home restrictions imposed in mid-March. The Baton Rouge region dropped 52,800 jobs in April compared to the year before, a tally that reflects how the region was standing after the first full month of restrictions. Restaurants were limited to take-out and delivery, then allowed distanced outdoor dining and are now at 25% capacity dining in.

The Baton Rouge region dropped 52,800 jobs in April compared to the year before, a tally that reflects how the region was standing after the first full month of the stay-at-home order issued to control the coronavirus pandemic.

Overall, the state lost 273,200 jobs since April 2019, plunging the total number of nonfarm jobs in Louisiana to 1.73 million, according to figures released Friday by the Louisiana Workforce Commission. The numbers are not seasonally adjusted.

The monthly figures are based on a survey taken by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics during the week of April 13. That was four weeks after Gov. John Bel Edwards shut down schools, bars, casinos and restaurant dining rooms in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus. All nonessential businesses were closed on March 23, with a loosening of some restrictions on April 30 and even more on May 15. Further reopening plans could to be announced next week.

Stephen Barnes, an associate professor and director of the University of Louisiana Lafayette’s Blanco Public Policy Center, who has been tracking unemployment claims in the state, said at the time April’s job numbers were collected, the impact of the pandemic and stay-at-home order was still getting worse.

“We have not seen the end of the economic fallout, but broadly speaking, we are on the road to recovery,” he said.

First-time claims for unemployment statewide peaked at 102,172 for the week ending April 4, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission. The weekly filings have been declining and hit 23,853 for the week ending May 23. 

“Those are still numbers well above prior records,” Barnes said.

As of the end of last week, 328,409 people were receiving unemployment checks in the state

Barnes said he expects the May numbers to show an increase in unemployment, since April's data was collected the week the stay-at-home order was loosened. But he said the numbers in June and July should show improvement.

“There were a huge number of workers furloughed and temporarily displaced out of work,” Barnes said, “but a lot of those folks have been able to get back to work.”

The 12.7% drop in jobs brought the number of people working in the Baton Rouge area to 362,500 in early April.

Practically every employment sector posted a year-to-year decline in the number of jobs. Leisure and hospitality was the hardest-hit sector, shedding 18,600 jobs, a nearly 46% decrease. Department store jobs fell by 500, or 41.7%, as chains such as Macy’s and J.C. Penney were temporarily shut down. Construction jobs dropped by 7,600, or 14.4%.

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The only sector to add jobs was chemical manufacturing, which was up 300, or 2.5%

The Baton Rouge unemployment rate, not seasonally adjusted, was 13%. That’s up from 3.4% in April 2019.

Baton Rouge, Lafayette, New Orleans' unemployment rates high above national average: report

That's better than the state unemployment rate of 14.5% during April. The state rate was up from 3.8% in April 2019.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 14.4% in April, up from 3.3% a year ago.

NEW ORLEANS AREA: The Crescent City lost 99,900 jobs compared with the year before, the largest total for any metro area in the state. The 17% decrease in jobs brought nonfarm employment to 487,100 jobs in early April.

New Orleans lost 34,100 food service and drinking place jobs over the year, a 52.8% decrease. Arts, entertainment and recreation jobs were off by 5,600, or 46.2%. Retail jobs were down by 19%, or 11,400.

The area's unemployment rate was 18.8%, the highest in the state. That’s up from 3.5% in April 2019.

LAFAYETTE AREA: The Acadiana region dropped 27,100 jobs from April 2019 to 178,000. That was a 13.2% loss.

Mining and logging, which includes the oil and gas sector, dropped by 2,900 jobs, or 21,8%. Leisure and hospitality was down by 47.9%, or 10,400 jobs. Retail was down by 2,400 jobs, a 9% decrease. The unemployment rate was 13.1% percent in April, up from 3.7% the year before.

OTHER AREAS: Lake Charles lost 23,600 jobs, a 20.3% drop to 92,600; Shreveport-Bossier City, 11.8%, or 21,500, to 160,100; Hammond, 5,000, or 10.9%. to 41,000; Monroe, 10%, or 7,900, to 71,000; Alexandria, 6,000, or 9.6%, to 56,500; and Houma-Thibodaux, 7,800, or 8.9%, to 79,600.


Email Timothy Boone at tboone@theadvocate.com.