by Eric Peterson, director of the Pelican Center for Technology and Innovation Policy

At first glance, the December State Employment and Unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics appeared positive for Louisiana. However, a closer look at the numbers reveals there is still a long way to go in the state’s economic recovery.

The summary showed a small uptick in the civilian labor force by 4,500. Additionally, the number of unemployed decreased by nearly 27,000 and the unemployment rate dropped by 1.3 percent, which puts it at 7.2 percent.

But when looking at the number of people employed in Louisiana, the increase from November to December was only 4,000. The largest increase was in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector at 4,600, Meanwhile, construction jobs decreased by 2,000 and those in the leisure and hospitality sector decreased by 1,000. This a far cry from the kind of numbers needed to demonstrate a return of jobs and opportunity to Louisiana.

Fortunately, despite a rough start to the year, the month of January appeared to end more promising on the jobs front. While the first two weeks of the year saw unemployment claims over 20,000 for the first time since September, the Department of Labor reports the number of claims now sit at just over 11,000. Although 11,000 is still higher than the number of claims for all of December, the continued administration of the vaccine and steady decline in hospitalizations will hopefully bring about a greater reopening of the economy and fewer unemployment claims.

Even as the unemployment rate ticks down, there is still much to be done to even return Louisiana to its pre-recession economic state, which was already underwhelming at best. As the legislature looks to convene in a few months, policies like tax reform, regulatory reform, and removing barriers to innovation, among others, need to be on the table to get Louisianans back to work.