While the conversations around the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 were dominating news cycles, last week’s state jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) flew under the radar.

The report showed that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Louisiana for February 2020 remained a sky-high 5.2 percent, more than half a point higher than February 2019. This was, once again, the highest rate in the south outside of Mississippi and a point-and-a-half higher than the southern state average.

These numbers are sure to worsen as more than 70,000 unemployment claims were filed in Louisiana last week compared to only 2,000 the previous week. This was the third largest increase in unemployment claims in the country. Regardless of these new eye-popping numbers, the February report still provides important information lawmakers and Louisianans should take into account.

Many economists have been optimistic that once the shutdown of the economy ends, the rebound will be swift as the fundamentals of the American economy remain strong. But as this report shows, the fundamentals of the Louisiana economy are anything but strong.

When the state legislature reconvenes, lawmakers will face a challenge not seen since Hurricane Katrina. They will have to balance the budget, while also ensuring a path is cleared to get Louisianans back to work as soon as possible.

The Pelican Institute has long advocated for important reforms to taxes,occupational licensure, and the Louisiana legal system, all of which can remove barriers to economic prosperity.

Considering the economic health of our state before this crisis began, it’s clear the people of Louisiana need and deserve fundamental reforms as soon as possible. We needed it before the arrival of COVID-19, and we’ll need it even more once the state opens back up for business.