Louisiana Economic Situation—July 2023

Louisiana Economic Situation—July 2023

Key Point: Too many Louisianans are struggling because of poor public policies which will be overcome with the Pelican Institute’s “Comeback Agenda.”

Louisiana’s Labor Market: Table 1 shows Louisiana’s labor market information over time until the latest data for June 2023, recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in its two surveys.

Table 1: Labor Market Indicators in Louisiana

  December 2007 February 2020  April 2020 June 2023
Labor force participation rate 61.5% 58.3% 55.5% 59.5%
Employment-population ratio 59.0% 55.5% 48.0% 57.4%
Unemployment rate 4.0% 5.2% 13.5% 3.6%
Total nonfarm employment 1.94M 1.99M 1.71M 1.96M
Private sector employment 1.58M 1.66M 1.39M 1.65M

Data compare the following: 1) December 2007—Dated start of that U.S. recession, 2) February 2020—Dated peak of the last

U.S. expansion, 3) April 2020—Dated trough of the last U.S. recession, and 4) June 2023—Latest data available.

 

Louisiana’s net total nonfarm jobs increased by just 400 jobs last month (+0.0%) to 1.96 million employed, which is 31,400 jobs below the pre-shutdown level in February 2020. Private sector employment was up by 1,400 jobs (+0.1%) to 1.65 million and government employment declined by 1,000 jobs (-0.3%) to 315,700 last month. Compared with a year ago, total employment was up by 50,000 jobs (+2.6%), with the private sector adding 41,100 jobs (+2.6%) and the government adding 8,900 jobs (+2.9%). This results in about 85% of all nonfarm jobs being in the productive private sector while 15% is in the government sector, which is the same as the share for the entire U.S.

 

Figure 1 shows the percent changes in changes in employment, average weekly hours, and average weekly earnings by industry over the last year in Louisiana. The industries leading the way in increases in employment are mining and logging, construction, and financial activities while trade and information have the largest declines. Average weekly hours have increased in most industries while trade and professional and business services have declined, but all of them except for manufacturing and financial activities have been below inflation over the last year. These data show the hardship that many Louisianans are facing across the state.

Figure 1. Louisiana’s Labor Market by Industry

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

 

The household survey finds that the working-age population, defined as 16 to 64 years old, declined by another 826 people last month to 3.5 million, down 9,950 people over the last year, and down 34,932 people since February 2020. And the civilian labor force, defined as those who are working or looking for work, declined by 3,191 to 2.1 million people last month, increased by 24,452 people over last year, and up 24,666 people since February 2020. These figures result in a labor force participation rate of 59.5%, which is up from 58.7% from last year and up from 58.3% since pre-shutdown but well below the 61.5% rate in December 2009 before the Great Recession.

But the number of employed has been increasing as it was up 2,432 over the last year, contributing to the slightly higher unemployment rate over the last year from 3.5% to 3.6%; but this rate remains lower than the 5.2% rate in February 2020. And a broader look at Louisiana’s labor market shows that Louisianans still face challenges with the continued decline in the working-age population which weighs on the labor-market shortage and long-term economic growth and comparisons with neighboring states based on several measures indicate major concerns.

Economic Growth: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently released the real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) and personal income for Louisiana and other states.

Table 2 shows how the 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. Figure 2 shows how the increase in real GDP in Louisiana of +1.4% in Q1:2023 ranked 31st in the country to $289.9 billion, after an annual decline in economic output by -1.8% in 2022 which was the second worst in the country.

Table 2: Economic Growth Comparison Between U.S. and Louisiana

  2020 2021 2022 Q2:2022 Q3:2022 Q4:2022 Q1:2023
U.S. real GDP annual growth rate -2.8% +5.9% +2.1% -0.6% +3.2% +2.6% +2.0%
U.S. real private GDP growth -3.9% +7.2% +2.6% -0.5% +3.1% +2.3% +1.4%
Louisiana real GDP growth -7.9% +1.3% -1.8% -3.0% +2.5% +2.2% +1.4%
Louisiana private real GDP growth -8.9% +1.5% -1.6% -3.2% +2.8% +2.2% +1.3%

 

Figure 2: Personal Income Growth by State in 2022

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

 

The BEA also reported that personal income in Louisiana grew at an annualized pace of +6.2% (ranked 27th) to $258.5 billion in Q1:2023 (above +5.1% U.S. average). There was personal income growth of 0.0% in 2022, ranking 50th of the states.

Bottom Line: Job creation in Louisiana was basically flat in June and most of those with a job have had their pay not keep up with inflation in a slow-growing economy. Unfortunately, there was an irresponsible budget passed in 2023 that excessively grew spending, busted spending caps in FY23 and FY 24, and didn’t provide tax relief even with billions in excess tax revenue. Given these results, there will unlikely be improvements in the state’s poor business tax climate, net outmigration of Louisianans, or the 19.6% poverty rate which ranks the highest in the country. Which pro-growth policies should be pursued instead? Refer to the Pelican Institute’s “Comeback Agenda” for policy recommendations that would turn the tide and provide opportunities for people to prosper.

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