Louisiana Payroll Numbers Shrink, Flashing Recession Warning

BATON ROUGE (AP) – Louisiana's labor market slipped in October, as the unemployment rate rose and payroll employment fell.

         Payrolls fell 6,000 from September and, crucially, also dipped below last October's level. That's a warning that the state's economy may be sliding into recession. It was the first time since November 2010 that year-over-year job totals fell.

         Both sets of figures, adjusted to cancel out seasonal changes, were released Friday by the U.S. Labor Department.

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         A separate survey shows the jobless rate rose to 6.2 percent in October from 6 percent into September, remaining below October 2014's 7 percent rate. The number of people reporting having a job fell for the fifth straight month, as the labor force continued shrinking.

         Much of the payroll decrease is being driven by a decrease in oil-and-gas jobs. Employment in the mining and logging sector, which is dominated by oil-and-gas jobs, has fallen by 8,900 since October 2014, a 17 percent decline.

         "If low oil prices continue, then we can expect to see greater impact on the state's workforce, especially in areas dependent on the oil industry," Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, said in a statement.

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         Louisiana payrolls rose in construction and were flat in professional and business services from September to October, but fell across other employment sectors.

         Many economists use payrolls as their top labor market indicator. The unemployment rate is calculated by a second survey asking how many people are looking for a job.

         Unemployment rates fell in 32 states in October, rose in three, and were flat in 15. West Virginia, at 6.9 percent, had the highest unemployment rate among the states, while Louisiana's rate was fifth-highest. North Dakota had the lowest, at 2.8 percent.

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         The national unemployment rate fell to 5 percent in October from 5.1 percent in September. It was down from 5.7 percent a year ago.

         The number of unemployed Louisianans rose to 132,000, up more than 3,000 from September, but below October 2014's level of 154,000. The state's labor force has been falling after peaking in May, meaning the number of people reporting jobs has been decreasing even as the unemployment rate and the total number of unemployed people have fallen.

         The broadest measure of those who are unemployed averaged 11.6 percent in Louisiana for the year ending in September, the most recent figures released. That includes people who look for work only sporadically, who have given up looking, or who work part time because they can't find a full-time job.

         Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 10.8 percent during the same period.

         – by AP Reporter Jeff Amy

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