State jobless rate up; St. Mary is steady

While statewide unemployment was up slightly for March, St. Mary Parish held steady at 9 percent.

St. Mary held at the February level, even though the number of employed increased by almost 200. In February, there were 20,333 employed and 2,017 unemployed, compared to 20,521 employed and 2,024 jobless in March. The 9 percent rate is better than the 9.6 percent rate recorded in March 2011.

The jobless rate improved slightly in Assumption Parish, with a drop from 10.4 percent to 10.1 percent. In February, there were 8,989 employed and 1,047 were jobless; in March, there were 9,087 employed and 1,016 unemployed.

St. Martin Parish also improved slightly, going from 6.2 percent to 6.1 percent unemployment overall; no separate calculation is made for Lower St. Martin. St. Martin Parish is part of the Lafayette Metropolitan Statistical Area, along with Lafayette Parish, which recorded 4.8 percent unemployment, down from 4.9 percent. The overall MSA unemployment rate was 5 percent, down from 5.2 percent.

Nearby Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, which make up the Houma-Thibodaux-Bayou Cane MSA, improved slightly, even though their jobless rates were static. Individually, Lafourche again posted a 4.9 percent jobless rate, and Terrebonne again posted a 5 percent rate; the numbers shifted enough, however, to drop the MSA overall rate from 5 percent to 4.9 percent.

Iberia Parish also saw its rate decrease a tenth of a percent, from 6.6 percent to 6.5 percent.

Among parishes of similar size to St. Mary, St. Charles reported 6.2 percent unemployment; St. John the Baptist, 8.2 percent; Acadia, 6.1 percent; Lincoln, 8.2 percent; Vermilion, 6.4 percent; Vernon, 6.9 percent; and Webster, 7.7 percent.

In addition to Assumption, double-digit unemployment was recorded in East Carroll, West Carroll, Morehouse, Madison, Franklin, Tensas, Concordia, Iberville and St. James parishes.

Louisiana’s unemployment rate rose to 7.1 percent in March as 2,800 more workers joined the jobless ranks — but job gains were enough to set an all-time record of one measure of employment.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission said Friday that seasonally adjusted non-farm employment reached just over 1.95 million last month — the highest in the state’s history.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate reported by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics rose from 7 percent in February and 6.9 percent in January. The number of those listed as unemployed rose to 147,100 last month from 144,300 in February and 141,900 in January.

Louisiana’s labor force — those working and actively seeking work — saw a February-to-March increase of about 4,100.

In March 2011, Louisiana’s unemployment rate was 7.5 percent with 155,800 jobless workers.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the government said Louisiana gained 2,100 jobs in March and 44,000 over 12 months. Without seasonal adjustments, the gain was 10,500 in March and 47,300 for the year. The February 2010 to February 2011 gain was 46,700 jobs and the January-to-January gain was 45,900.

With seasonal factors taken out, the goods-producing sector — manufacturing, construction and petroleum, gained 5,900 jobs over 12 months, including 2,100 in March. But construction is slowing down, showing a 12-month job loss of 1,700 and a monthly loss of 400. Manufacturing recorded a 2,800-job gain over 12 months, including 1,400 in March. Petroleum employment rose by 4,800 over 12 months, including 1,100 in March, the BLS said.

The service-providing sector added 41,400 jobs over the past 12 months, led by private education and health care, which gained 14,600 to lead all sectors in Louisiana. But education-health care showed only a 100-job gain in March.

Trade, transportation and utilities added 9,800 jobs over the year, including 2,200 in March. The widespread category of professional business services added 6,800 jobs over the year and 400 over the month. Leisure-hospitality payrolls increased by 5,600 over 12 months, including 3,600 in March. The financial sector gained 3,200 jobs over the year, including 500 in March. Information services lost 600 jobs over the year and had no change from February to March.

Government at all levels added 1,900 jobs in Louisiana from March 2011 through last month, although government employment fell by 100 last month, the BLS said. The Workforce Commission said federal government employment fell by 700 jobs over the year and state government lost 2,100 jobs. Local governments in Louisiana added 4,700 jobs.

Some economists have questioned the accuracy of recent job figures on both the state and national levels. Last year, the BLS began using a method of estimating non-farm employment that restricts a state’s ability to challenge questionable figures.

Among the state’s metropolitan areas, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis:

—New Orleans gained 1,300 jobs in March for a 12-month increase of 7,100.

—Baton Rouge added 800 jobs in March for a March-to-March increase of 1,000.

—Lafayette added 2,600 jobs in March for a 12-month increase of 14,100.

—Lake Charles lost 300 jobs in March for a 12-month decrease of 900.

—Houma recorded 1,000 more jobs for a March-to-March increase of 5,700.

—Shreveport-Bossier City added 300 jobs in March. The figure was the same for the last 12 months.

—Alexandria added 300 jobs in March, but wound up with 1,400 fewer jobs than a year ago.

—Monroe gained 800 jobs in March for a 12-month gain of 1,100.


EDITOR’S NOTE — The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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