It’s hard to grow and support a state—and families—without jobs. And if you don’t have jobs, you can’t attract new residents, and, in fact, you wind up losing good workers you have to other states where there are more jobs. Not only does it hurt the workforce, but it costs Louisiana talent and, yes, government-funding taxpayers.
Here, in an odd quirk of math, is what it also does: A shrinking labor pool often also “lowers” your unemployment percentage, creating a false impression on the health of a state’s economy.
Citing a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Gov. John Bel Edwards was touting that Louisiana has its lowest unemployment rate in 11 years. Moreover, using nonseasonally adjusted numbers, the governor boasted employment was up 4,800 jobs from July 2018. Sounds great, until one looks at the more accepted seasonally-adjusted numbers, showing Louisiana lost 1,000 jobs in that same 12-month period—the only state in the nation to lose jobs.
But, hey, if the governor wants to go with nonadjusted numbers, then perhaps he can explain why Louisiana had a higher unemployment percentage in 2014 and 2015, yet had more total jobs and more people working in the state?
Figures from the BLS report show Louisiana set a record for the number of people working in November and December 2014, hitting 2,021,000. In fact, over the final two years of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s second term, total jobs topped 2 million seven times. In Gov. Edwards’ four years, the state has cracked 2 million once (2,001,000 in November 2018).
So how does Edwards get a “low unemployment rate” with less folks having jobs? Just lower the denominator (people in the labor force) as workers exit the state.
Published reports note that Louisiana, from 2017 to 2018, was one of only nine states to record a net loss of population—the fourth largest, with 27,914 people moving to other states.
But when the jobs report comes out, Edwards said, “Louisiana continues to see its lowest unemployment rate in 11 years.” And then claims he is “attracting thousands of jobs to the state.” Then why are fewer people working in Louisiana?
It doesn’t help in attracting new businesses and jobs when the rankings come out and CNBC’s Top States for Business has Louisiana at 46th, saying, “The good times are not rolling in a state with one of the nation’s weakest economies.”
Jim Clifton, head of the Gallup organization, did a global poll a few years ago, asking people in 160 countries to name their top priority. “What the whole world wants is a good job,” Clifton said.
A good job can change a family’s destiny and can help grow a community and its economy. A state needs policies and people who support local companies and entrepreneurs, welcome new businesses, and encourage their investment and the hiring of local workers searching for a good job. Is that happening? Not according to the numbers of jobs from BLS history.
Edwards loves to talk about deficits and surpluses. Well, governor, you have created a deficit of jobs when Louisiana needs a surplus.
Blanco will be missed
Louisiana’s first female governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, was laid to rest last week after a battle with cancer. Many have paid tribute to her for heart for Louisiana and her role as public servant. A mother of six, she began as a teacher, and then served as a state representative, public service commissioner and lieutenant governor, before being elected governor.
I had the privilege of knowing her and she was always genuine and kind to all. She loved life, God, her family and Louisiana. She will be missed.
Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy go out to her husband, Raymond, and her family.
Council takes a ‘Chance’
It seems Chance Wilson is Councilman Matt Watson’s friend and that, apparently, is enough to get appointed to the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board. Some council members told me they only met Wilson the night of the vote in May. (Is that how the process works in EBR?)
Wilson finds himself in the news for rather forcefully questioning his fellow board members and library administration over spending decisions regarding the under-construction downtown library. I called to learn that there was a 3 1/2-hour budget workshop and Wilson only attended the first hour. (Where was his concern and commitment?)
After joining the board only a few months ago, Wilson accuses his fellow board members of being a “rubber stamp” and “ineffective” and declaring there is “no supervision or scrutiny.” Well, what scrutiny does the Metro Council give to board appointments—including Chance Wilson?
Wilson’s fellow library board members responded to his attacks and said he was “grandstanding,” while also accusing him of going to the media with his complaints, rather than expressing them directly to the board and administration. (He did call an editor here with his complaint on the Omniglobe item and was on WAFB and The Advocate front page.)
A quick look at his Facebook page supports the notion that he likes the spotlight and is a self-promoter—but it also raises a number of questions about his own experience.
Wilson says he started a non-profit literacy program, Wilson Global Initiative, when he was 14 and is in seven countries with reading programs. On Facebook, he says he has moved his “global headquarters” to New York City from Baton Rouge, while also having an office in Hong Kong. That NYC headquarters turns out to be a desk and phone in a shared office space.)
Speaking of scrutiny, his non-profit is listed on Guidestar, which is “the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations.” But there is no information but his name and address. No financials. And on his IRS 990-N form, he filed it on an e-postcard with little information and two years were missing. He marks the category on funds as “Gross receipts not greater than $50,000.” How do you run a global operation in seven countries with two offices for less than $50,000? Just curious.
Is this the same guy who Watson and the rest of the Metro Council appointed to oversee library operations? What experience and credentials did they desire for this appointment? (The same could be asked about all appointments they make for boards and commissions.) Wilson, on Facebook, says he will be spending half his time living in New York. If so, why is he serving on the EBR Library Board?
I applaud youthful exuberance and ambition. And board members have a role to ask questions and make sound decisions—not “sound bites.” We know experience is the best teacher—and Wilson, at 19, will learn. Many of us have learned the hard way.
He was appointed to serve the library and the people, and to work as part of a collective board. Or, you can get on TV, if that is your goal. (On Facebook, Wilson says he wants his photo in the state Capitol on the wall of governors.) We all are motivated by something. And there is nothing wrong with passion, drive and ego—unless it gets out of control. The Metro Council, members of all boards and anyone else who is a public servant must keep this purpose in mind. It’s not about you.