St. Mary jobless rate dips; state job growth up

The jobless rate in St. Mary Parish dipped in July, improving four-tenths of a percent from 10 percent in June to 9.6 percent.

In July 2010, the unemployment rate was 9.7 percent.

There were 20,304 employed and 2,160 unemployed in the parish in July, compared to 20,299 employed and 2,249 jobless in June. In July last year, 21,261 were employed and 2,282 were unemployed.

Among St. Mary’s neighbors, only Assumption Parish had a higher jobless rate. Assumption’s rate was 11.5 percent, down from 12 percent in June, but higher than the 10.9 percent rate recorded in July 2010.

Iberia Parish’s rate was 7.6 percent in July, down from 7.8 percent in June, while St. Martin Parish overall posted a 7.3 percent rate, down from 7.6 percent in June. No separate calculation is made for Lower St. Martin.

The Houma-Thibodaux-Bayou Cane Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes neighboring Terrebonne Parish as well as Lafourche Parish, reported 5.4 percent unemployment, with identical 5.4 percent rates reported in each parish. The rate decreased from 5.8 percent in June, when Terrebonne had 5.7 percent unemployment and Lafourche had 5.8 percent unemployment.

The Lafayette MSA, which includes St. Martin Parish, had 6.1 percent unemployment in July; Lafayette Parish had 5.8 percent unemployment.

Among parishes of similar size to St. Mary, July unemployment rates included St. Charles, 7.5 percent; St. John the Baptist, 10.2 percent; Acadia, 6.7 percent; St. Bernard, 8 percent; Lincoln, 9.9 percent; Vermilion, 6.8 percent; Vernon, 9 percent; and Webster, 8.4 percent.

Double-digit jobless rates were reported in Allen, East Carroll, West Carroll, Morehouse, Richland, Madison, Franklin, Tensas, Catahoula, Concordia, Iberville, St. Helena, Washington and St. James parishes.

Annual job growth in Louisiana picked up in July as the state registered 32,100 more non-farm jobs than a year ago, the state Workforce Commission reported Wednesday.

But a veteran economist who follows Louisiana’s job picture said he had doubts about the overall number because of a change implemented earlier this year in gathering jobs data.

According to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from June 2010 through June 2011, the state had 11,600 more non-farm jobs. The May-to-May comparison showed a gain of 15,000 jobs.

Last month, the state dropped 8,900 jobs from June. The figures are not adjusted for seasonal factors, such as the summer break from the school year, making month-to-month comparisons more volatile.

The latest report showed a year-to-year increase of 9,100 goods-producing jobs in construction, manufacturing and petroleum and a 31,200-job gain in private service-providing jobs. Government on all levels shed 8,200 jobs.

Over the past year, manufacturing in Louisiana has added 6,800 jobs, the petroleum sector is up by 1,100 jobs and construction has added 1,200 jobs.

In the service-providing sector, private education-health services added 15,000 jobs, followed by leisure-hospitality with 10,000 jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities added 6,100 jobs and information gained 4,200 jobs. The widespread sector of professional and business services dropped 3,900 jobs.

But economist Loren Scott said the latest numbers may be an “apples to oranges” comparison. Since March, states have had less power with the BLS to adjust atypical numbers, said Patty Lopez, labor market specialist manager with the Workforce Commission.

However, a year’s worth of data under the new method will have to be gathered before any conclusions can be reached about the effect on the jobs numbers, Lopez said.

For example, Scott questioned the Baton Rouge figure, which showed only a gain of 500 jobs over the year, despite a strong chemical sector, and the overall job growth figures for New Orleans and Alexandria.

“I can’t say he’s right or wrong,” Lopez said of Scott’s concern.

Louisiana’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate for July was 7.6 percent, down from 7.8 percent in June.

Wednesday’s report also laid out the state’s metropolitan areas:

—New Orleans gained 13,700 non-farm jobs over the past 12 months, all but 400 in the service-providing sector.

—Baton Rouge added 500 jobs in 12 months — 400 in the goods-producing sector and 100 in the service-providing sector.

—Houma-Thibodaux added 2,300 jobs over 12 months, including 500 in the goods-producing sector and 1,800 in the service-providing sector.

—Alexandria gained 2,400 jobs over the year, all but 200 in the service-providing sector.

—Lafayette added 1,300 jobs over the year, including 600 goods-producing jobs and 700 in the service-providing sector.

—Lake Charles added 1,700 jobs over the year, including 500 in the goods-producing sector and 1,200 in the service-providing sector.

—Shreveport-Bossier City added 2,900 jobs over 12 months — 1,000 in the goods-producing sector and 1,900 service-providing jobs.

—Monroe dropped 300 jobs in the July-to-July count. The service-providing sector lost 500 jobs, while goods-producing jobs increased by 200.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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