Over the last few weeks, a trend has emerged showing less Louisianans filing for unemployment than previous weeks. This week saw this pattern continue, with just under 10,000 people filing for unemployment, a decrease of almost 3,500 from the previous week. This was, once again, a new low since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The number of people on unemployment insurance also took a major dip, falling to just over 290,000, though it’s important to note that this number has been subject to major week-to-week revisions.

This situation is not unique to Louisiana, as less than a million people nationwide filed initial unemployment claims for the first time since mid-March. While this is good news for the nation and Louisiana, our state is still struggling when compared to other states. More than 17 percent of Louisiana citizens are on unemployment insurance, the fourth highest percentage in the nation.

The good numbers we’re seeing are likely a combination of two factors. As previously discussed, Congress’ inaction has led to the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits, which is likely driving people to find jobs rather than filing for unemployment. Additionally, the release of the July unemployment numbers shows that the American economy continues to add jobs. The number of employed people increased by 1.8 million in the month of July, marking the third-straight month of job gains.

This is obviously a good thing, although it’s less than the 4.8 million jobs added in June and the 2.7 million added in May. At just under 600,000, the largest employment gains in any sector occurred in the leisure and hospitality sector. Of those nearly 600,000 jobs, more than 500,000 of those were in food service and drinking establishments. Though there are still 2.6 million fewer people employed in this sector, it has experienced a substantial recovery over the last few months.

The next largest gains overall were in local government, with just over 300,000 new workers, most of whom were in education, and retail, which added 258,000 jobs.

We will have a better sense of how Louisiana is fairing in terms of returning people to work when the state-by-state employment numbers come out next week. But until then, all the preliminary signs point to an economy which is slowly yet steadily recovering. If we want to speed the recovery time, we must spend our time now supporting and enacting policies to encourage the return of jobs and opportunity to our state. Louisiana working families, who have been suffering the effects of this shutdown for far too long, depend on it.