Ever since the new estimates from the U.S Census Bureau showing that both Louisiana and the City of New Orleans have lost population for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, there have been plenty of questions as to why.

Luckily for us, more government data paints a crystal clear picture for the reason people are fleeing Louisiana – there is a lack of jobs and opportunity in the Pelican State.

Since hitting a high in late 2014, the number of people employed in Louisiana has decreased significantly. In fact, 4,801 fewer people are employed (based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent numbers) now than even just in January of 2016.

But, it’s not just that the number people with jobs was declining. Those who had a job or were looking for one, also known as the labor force, also declined during the same period. Again, comparing today and January of 2016, the labor force has dropped by 36,471 people who have given up looking for work or left the state altogether.

This is shocking. Despite the booming American economy, which has created millions of jobs, the state of Louisiana managed to completely sidestep this time of prosperity and job growth. This trend, unfortunately, continues as Louisiana’s unemployment rate sits at 4.7 percent, nearly a full percentage point above the national average. And, while this number has dropped some over the last few years, saying this is due to “economic growth” is like a pastor taking out the back pews of church and claiming higher weekend worship attendance.

Digging even deeper into the numbers, it’s clear that Louisiana’s issues go beyond simply a higher-than-average unemployment rate.

Looking at the Gross Domestic Product, otherwise known as the value of stuff produced in the state, we see the same troubling trend lines.

Given that Louisiana’s economy has effectively shrunk since 2010, with little sign of recovery, is it surprising the jobs numbers are as bad as they are?

Taking all this data into consideration, is it shocking that Louisiana was one of only four states to lose jobs between 2017 and 2018?

All of this paints a picture of an economy that is, at best, stagnant and more likely shrinking. Who can blame the folks of Louisiana for picking up and moving to the greener pastures of Texas or Tennessee?

As troubling as this crisis is, and it is indeed troubling, there are solutions available.

Louisiana is a state blessed with an abundance of natural resources, some of the largest trade hubs in the world and a population who knows how to work.

But, a status quo that favors a tax system that rewards those who can lobby for special favors and a legal climate that leaves working families facing high costs and complex rules has chased jobs out of the state.

If Louisiana can enact bold, yet common sense reforms, which have been proven to work in states across the nation, it can turn this troubling story around and become the next great success story.  You can read more about some of these ideas here in the Pelican Institute’s Jobs and Opportunity Agenda.

This report from the Census should be a wake-up call to Louisiana leaders. It should be a clear sign that all is not well in the state. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if they had been paying attention to the clear warning signs in front of them.