Key Point: Louisiana’s labor market looks okay even as the unemployment rate increased by 0.2-percentage point to 3.5% unemployment rate. But the labor force has 10,622 (-0.5%) fewer people in it than pre-shutdown in February 2020 and private sector employment is 30,000 (-1.8%) below then, indicating a much weaker labor market and economy overall.
Labor Market: A job is the best path to prosperity as work brings dignity, hope, and purpose to people through life-long benefits of earning a living, gaining skills, and building social capital. The table below shows Louisiana’s labor market over time until the latest data for December 2022 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The establishment survey shows that net total nonfarm jobs in the state increased by 4,800 jobs last month (+0.2%), bringing this to 50,700 jobs below the pre-shutdown level in February 2020. Private sector employment was up by 4,400 jobs (+0.3%) and government employment rose by 400 jobs (+0.1%) last month. Compared with a year ago, total employment was up by 46,200 jobs (+2.4%) with the private sector adding 45,600 jobs (+2.9%) and the government adding 600 jobs (+0.2%).
The household survey finds that the civilian labor force rose by 5,028 people last month and is down 10,622 people since February 2020, which results in the labor force participation rate of 58.5% being 0.1-percentage point lower than it was in February 2020 but well below the 61.2% rate in June 2009 at the trough of the Great Recession. The employment-population ratio is 0.9-percentage point above where it was in February 2020 and nearly back to where it was in June 2009. While the unemployment rate of 3.5% is substantially lower than the 5.2% rate in February 2020, a broader look at Louisiana’s labor market rather than this weak indicator shows that Louisianans still face challenges, especially compared with neighboring states based on several measures.
Economic Growth: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently provided the real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) in Q3:2022 for Louisiana and other states.
The following table shows how U.S. and Louisiana economies performed since 2020. The steep declines were during the shutdowns in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was when the labor market suffered most. The decline in real GDP annualized growth of -3% in Q2:2022 was the 5th worst and increase of +2.5% in Q3:2022 ranked 23rd in the country.
The BEA also reported that personal income in Louisiana grew at an annualized pace of +5.8% (ranked 19th) in Q2:2022 (tied +5.8% U.S. average) and of +2.5% (ranked 47th) in Q3:2022 (below +5.3% U.S. average).
Bottom Line: Louisianans gained jobs in December but continue to feel the costs of the shutdowns in 2020 and other restrictive policies that reduce opportunities for them to find well-paid jobs. Institutions matter to human flourishing in countries and states, which is floundering in Louisiana compared with many other states. The Fraser Institute recently ranked Louisiana 20th for economic freedom based on 2020 data for government spending, taxes, and labor market regulation. And the Tax Foundation recently ranked the Pelican State as having the 12th worst business tax climate and 15th highest corporate income tax rate. While the state has improved its tax code recently and lower taxes may happen soon from an expected budget surplus, this lack of economic freedom and poor business tax climate are contributing to a net outmigration of Louisianans to other states, which is a drain on the state’s economic potential now and in the future. State and local policymakers should work to reverse this trend by passing pro-growth policies.
Free-Market Solutions: In 2023, the Louisiana Legislature should provide the state’s comeback story by:
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Vance Ginn, Ph.D.