Jobs picture brightens in Louisiana in February (updated)
Louisiana's unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent in February, hitting the lowest level since July 2008.
The number of people who told surveyors they had a job hit a new record for the fifth month in a row, approaching 2 million.
A separate survey shows payrolls were grew slightly from January to February, but remained below the record levels of late 2013. Both sets of figures — adjusted to cancel out normal seasonal changes — were released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Louisiana's unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in January and 6.4 percent in February 2013.
St. Mary Parish’s February unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, down from 5.5 percent in January and 7 percent in February 2013. There were 21,369 people working in St. Mary Parish in February up from 21,071 a year ago in February.
Total unemployed Louisianans fell below 100,000 — for the first time since August 2008 — hitting 95,000 in February. That's down from almost 103,000 in January and 134,000 in February 2013.
Rhode Island again had the worst jobless rate among the states at 9 percent, while North Dakota was again lowest at 2.6 percent. Unemployment rates fell in 29 states, were flat in 11 states and rose in 10. The Labor Department said Friday that payroll employment rose in 33 states and fell in 17 states.
The national unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent in February from 6.6 percent in January. It was also below the 7.7 percent level of February 2013.
The unemployment rate is calculated by a survey that asks how many people are looking for a job. A second survey each month asks employers how many people are on their payrolls, a measure many economists use as their top labor market indicator.
Louisiana's nonfarm payrolls rose to 1.96 million people in February, up 2,000 from January and 10,000 higher than a year ago. However that's down almost 10,000 than the record-high level seen in October. Louisiana has seen three years of strong payroll growth, with payrolls rising more than 4 percent during that time, outstripping the number of jobs lost during the recession.
Payrolls rose in economic sectors including financial activities, professional and business services, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality. They fell in trade, transportation and utilities; construction and manufacturing. Government payrolls were flat.
The broadest measure of those who are unemployed averaged 12.7 percent in Louisiana during 2013, the most recent figures available. That rate includes not only those counted as jobless in the standard survey, but also people who are looking for work only sporadically, have given up looking, or are working part time because they can't find a full-time job.
Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 13.8 percent during the same time.