Economic gains uneven among Louisiana metro areas since recession, report says
Though Louisiana has more jobs today than when the Great Recession began in 2007 and has increased economic output by 17% from 2000 to 2015, a new report from the left-leaning Louisiana Budget Project shows some metro areas—such as Baton Rouge—have fared better than others.
The third annual State of Working Louisiana report, which offers a snapshot of how workers are faring across the state, also shows the job gains in the state have not translated into higher wages for workers.
“Four of the state’s nine metropolitan areas (Houma-Thibodaux, Shreveport-Bossier City, Lafayette and Alexandria) had fewer jobs in June 2017 than prior to the Great Recession, and continued to lose jobs during the one-year period between June 2016 and June 2017,” reads the report, which notes the Baton Rouge metro area has seen job growth of roughly 7.5% since the recession began.
Louisiana has outpaced the nation in job growth—averaging 3,300 new jobs per month during the six month period that ended June 30, LBP says. It also has 53,800 more jobs than when the recession began and workers are more productive. But families are not benefitting from the economic gains Louisiana has made and continues to make, the budget project says.
While Louisiana’s economy expanded by 17% between 2000 and 2015, the report says, the median wage grew by just 4% over that span. And the wage gap between white and black workers in the state has widened by 40% since 1979. One in three Louisiana workers earns below the federal poverty wage of $11.66 per hour for a family four and couldn’t make ends meet even if they worked 40 hours a week. Many new jobs like those in the leisure and hospitality industry offer low wages and lack benefits, the report says.
LBP focuses on state fiscal issues and how they impact low- and moderate-income individuals. To that end, the organization hopes the report will be a resource for policymakers. LBP recommends lawmakers enact a state minimum wage above the federally-mandated wage and index it to inflation to keep pace with cost of living increases. It also suggests stabilizing the tax structure to fund job-supporting investments in education, infrastructure and health care and focusing economic development strategies on producing homegrown entrepreneurs, among others.