This week, news regarding America’s economic growth dominated business headlines. The country’s economy grew by 6.9 percent in the 4th quarter of 2021, leading to an overall economic growth of 5.7 percent. But just as consequential to the people of Louisiana was the final jobs report examining state data from 2021.

The jobs report showed Louisiana gained 7,900 jobs from November to December. The largest increase was in the construction industry which gained 3,500 jobs followed by 1,900 jobs in the professional and business services sector. But how did the Louisiana job market fare across 2021?

On the positive front, Louisiana added 40,000 jobs from December 2020 to 2021. The largest gains were in leisure and hospitality which gained 13,400 jobs, professional and business services which added 12,800 jobs, and education and health services which added 7,900 jobs. Overall, the unemployment rate dropped from 7.9 percent to 4.8 percent.

But these jobs gains don’t tell the whole story. Louisiana’s labor force, defined as those working or wanting to work, declined by 32,000 people. This means that for every 10 Louisianans who found a job, 8 quit working and searching for a job entirely. This is not the sign of a strong economy as many of Louisiana’s peer states saw growth in both jobs and labor force.

As the legislative session quickly approaches, there is much that should be done to improve the conditions of Louisiana’s job market. Barriers to work like occupational licensure prevent many Louisianans from working in their chosen profession. These licenses should be reduced or eliminated when appropriate.

While Louisiana added jobs in 2021, the state needs to accelerate efforts to strengthen its workforce as it struggles to sufficiently recover from the COVID -19 pandemic.