Last week marked the start of Louisiana’s legislative session. As lawmakers work to find solutions to our biggest issues, it’s important to know the state of jobs and opportunity in Louisiana.

The latest state jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers some important data to this question about the state of Louisiana’s economy. The report found that the Louisiana unemployment rate sits at 4.3 percent at the end of January, down from 4.4 percent a month prior. While this is still higher than the national unemployment rate of 4 percent, Louisiana now ranks 32nd in unemployment rate, which is much better than the early days of the pandemic.

More encouraging than the decrease in Louisiana’s unemployment rate is the increase in the labor force, or the number of people working or looking for work. The labor force increased by over 6,500 people from December to January, a significant sign that people are looking and returning to work. This marks a reversal from earlier trends where more than 7 people were dropping out of the labor force for every 10 that returned to work in Louisiana. The number of people working in Louisiana also increased by 3,600.

Even with these improvements, there is still much work to be done for Louisiana families. The Pelican State still has almost 90,000 unemployed individuals who are looking for work. With rising inflation and unprecedented gas prices, many cannot afford to be out of work for long. Rampant occupational licensing and a failing education system poses significant challenges to growing our workforce. To strengthen Louisiana’s workforce now and in the future, our state must address existing barriers to work and equip our students with the tools they need for success so the next generation of workers can carve a more successful path for our state.