Louisiana Workforce Commission

The Legislative Auditor has cited several concerns about the administration of the state's unemployment program during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Louisiana's nonfarm employment fell by 273,200 jobs over the 12 months through April, a 13.6% drop led by leisure and hospitality losses, and already being exceeded by more recent jobless claims statistics. 

April is the most recent monthly employment data available from surveys earlier that month that capture only some of the unemployment triggered since mid-March by state-imposed business shutdowns and restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The state's unemployment rate was 14.5% in April, up from 4.5% in April 2019. The U.S. unemployment rate was 14.7%, up from 3.6% one year before. A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce analysis of U.S. Labor Department data suggests 28% of the state's labor force is out of work, ranking Louisiana 8th in the nation for percentage of the workforce filing for unemployment.

Jobless claims, though now slowing down from early spikes caused by coronavirus-inflicted layoffs in mid-March, exceeds 326,000 in the latest report of continuing jobless claims issued by the state on Thursday.  

Louisiana had 1,727,600 nonfarm jobs in April, according to preliminary numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. The numbers are not seasonally adjusted.

Leisure and hospitality lost 108,900, or 54.4%, to 130,400 workers in April as many airlines cut back on flights and tourism ground to a halt after stay-at-home orders were issued in many states across the country. As of May 15, the first phase of reopening began across the state, though more restrictions are still in place in New Orleans where tourism is a big sector. 

In April, construction fell by 22,700 jobs, or 15.6%, to 122,000 workers across the state. Several major petrochemical projects paused construction due to uncertainty in the market and safety concerns. Construction already was in a lull since the completion of some major multibillion-dollar industrial projects in 2019. 

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Mining and logging, which includes the oil and gas sector, lost 5,600 jobs, or 15.1%, to 31,400 workers in Louisiana after oil prices plummeted due to a glut in the market spurring many operators to shut-in wells. 

Information lost 3,700 jobs, or 15.6%, to 20,000 workers; other services, 9,400, or 12.7%, to 64,600 workers; trade, transportation and utilities, 41,900 jobs, or 11%, to 336,500 workers; education and health services, 34,500 jobs, or 10.7%, to 286,100; professional and business services, 20,900 jobs, or 9.5%, to 197,000 workers; federal, state and local government, 9,200 jobs to 326,600 workers; and financial services, 3,900 jobs to 88,000 workers.

Manufacturing lost 12,500 jobs, or 9%, to 125,000 workers. Losses were nearly evenly split between short-term nondurable goods such as food manufacturing and longer-lasting durable goods like transportation equipment.

There were 28,545 first-time unemployment claims filed for the week ending May 16, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.There are still 326,504 people across the state receiving unemployment checks as of May 16, up from 325,136 continuing claims the week before and 310,013 two weeks ago.

Editors Note: This story has been updated with Louisiana Workforce Commission data, which was available after federal data was released. 

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Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.