Acadiana Business

La. unemployment rises in January

by Walter Pierce

Louisiana's unemployment rate rose to 5.9 percent in January and it was the only state to register a significant loss on a separate survey of payrolls.

Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers released Monday show Louisiana unemployment rose from 5.6 percent in December, but remained below the 7 percent level of December 2012.

Louisiana payrolls fell by 12,500 jobs in January from an all-time high of 1.95 million in December. Payrolls remained 18,000 jobs above the 1.91 million level of January 2012.

The number of unemployed Louisianans rose to 124,000. That's up from 117,000 in December, but down from 145,000 in January 2012.

The number of people who said they had a job fell by fewer than 3,000 in January 2013. But more were looking with Louisiana's labor force rising to 2.09 million, the highest level since November 2005. During a three-month period after Hurricane Katrina, the state's labor force topped 2.1 million. It's never been that high before or after.

"The growth of our labor force and the high number of people who are working are indicators our economy is continuing to grow," Louisiana Workforce Commission Executive Director Curt Eysink said in a statement.

Revised numbers released this month shows that the state's unemployment rate has been falling steadily since peaking at 7.8 percent in late 2010. If the January 2013 number holds, it would be the first time that the jobless rate has risen in Louisiana in more than two years.

The unemployment rate is calculated by a survey that asks how many people are looking for a job. A second survey each month asks employers how many people are on their payrolls, a measure that many economists look to as their top labor market indicator.

When adjusted to cancel out seasonal fluctuations, total Louisiana payrolls fell to 1.93 million. Payrolls fell in every major business sector, with the professional and business service sector falling by the largest share, nearly 1.5 percent.

Overall, jobless levels rose in 25 states in January, fell in eight and were flat in 17. California and Rhode Island were tied for the highest jobless rate at 9.8 percent, while North Dakota again had the lowest rate at 3.3 percent.

The national unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent in January from 7.8 percent in December. It remained below the 8.3 percent level of January 2012.

Parish level unemployment rates are not adjusted to cancel out for normal seasonal fluctuations. They rose in all 64 parishes in January from December, as is normal as retailers lay off extra holiday help, but only 11 parishes had higher jobless rates than a year ago. The only urban area where joblessness rose over the year was Shreveport, where unemployment increased to 7.6 percent in January in the three-parish area.

East Carroll Parish had the highest jobless rate at 18.5 percent in January, while Lafourche Parish had the lowest at 5.1 percent.

The broadest measure the unemployed includes people who are looking for work only sporadically, have given up looking or are working part time because they can't find a full-time job. That figure averaged 11.9 percent in Louisiana during 2012, the most recent numbers available.

Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 14.7 percent during 2012.