What’s going to happen relatively soon, particularly when the current scare surrounding the Wuhan virus and the resulting closures of bars, restaurants, gyms, retail establishments and everything else across the state coming from it puts Louisiana’s economy in a coma, is that the virus will be blamed for the wreckage of the state’s businesses.
Don’t let the John Bel Edwardses, LaToya Cantrells and Sharon Broomes of the world get away with that. Don’t let them skate.
Why? Because long before anybody got sick in Louisiana their leadership had trashed the state’s economy.
The numbers for the 12 months before any impact of the virus are in, and they’re beyond abysmal.
Louisiana’s nonfarm employment declined by 7,400 jobs over the past 12 months through January, a drop of 0.4%, led by a big drop in construction and manufacturing jobs.
Louisiana ended January with 1,969,200 jobs, according to preliminary numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Monday. The numbers are not seasonally adjusted.
Construction fell by 13,400 jobs, or 9.2%, to 131,900 workers. Some of that big drop could be attributed to industrial jobs wrapping up construction projects and those temporary workers may return as other projects get underway. January’s construction sector employment was the lowest level for January since 2014.
Manufacturing lost 2,100 jobs, or 1.5%, to 135,200 workers. Much of the manufacturing sector job losses was tied to short-term nondurable goods, such as food manufacturing, rather than longer-lasting durable goods like transportation equipment manufacturing.
Trade, transportation and utilities lost 3,200 jobs, or 0.8%, to 377,200 workers. Information lost 1,700 jobs, or 7.9%, to 19,800. Mining and logging, which includes the oil and gas sector, lost 400 jobs to 36,000, a 1% decline.
Other services was flat at 73,400 jobs.
Leisure and hospitality added 5,600 jobs across the state, or 2.4%, to 238,800 workers.
Got that? The tourism business grew by 5,600 jobs. Government grew 2,800 jobs. And the state still lost 7,400 jobs.
How many of that 5,600 number do you think will hold together in the tourism and hospitality trade now? Not much, right?
Louisiana’s unemployment rate for January was 5.7 percent. That’s a good bit worse than the 5.1 percent the state had in January of 2019. The national rate was 3.8 percent.
In a month that unemployment rate could easily rise to 8 percent, or more. You will hear Louisiana’s political leaders making excuses that it’s all about the virus, and that it’s beyond their control.
No, it isn’t. These numbers show the state was in the tank before anybody got sick.
Louisiana’s legislature is shut down until the end of the month, following a vote to adjourn yesterday. When the leges come back to the capitol, they’d better be armed with a plan to resuscitate this economy and make some structural changes and reforms to spark business activity.
And John Bel Edwards had better be willing to get the hell out of the way.