BATON ROUGE (CNS)—Poor Gov. Jindal; he just can’t catch a break.
No sooner does he try to put a positive spin on six straight months of increased unemployment rates in the state than 24/7 Wall St., the financial news and polling firm, publishes a survey showing that Louisiana is second only to Tennessee among the worst states in American in which to be unemployed.
Even Mississippi, at 10th worst, ranks eight notches higher than Louisiana.
Jindal, who loves to cite any survey that puts Louisiana in a favorable light, is likely to overlook the latest 24/7 findings which indicate the following for the state:
- The 24.6 percent of average weekly wage covered is lowest in the nation (the national average is 33 percent);
- The average weekly payout of $201 is second lowest;
- The 30 percent of unemployed who are receiving benefits is tied with Tennessee for fifth lowest (again, the national average was 45 percent);
- The 1.1 percent one-year job growth is 19th lowest;
- The state’s unemployment rate of 7 percent puts it in the middle of the pack at 25th lowest—but Louisiana is one of only a handful where the unemployment rate actually rose from the previous year.
Jindal (through Lansing, of course; he never takes tough questions from the media) denies that the increased unemployment rate and the 3,800 state employees who received their pink slips in the last budget year are linked in any way.
Wow. As they say, figures don’t lie but liars figure.
Claiming that many of the state employees found new jobs with the private companies that took over state services, Sean Lansing, who apparently has taken Kyle Plotkin’s place as lead Jindal apologist, said, “Louisiana’s economy is continuing to thrive as we consistently outperform both the national and Southern economies. Suggesting otherwise can only be done by ignoring a slew of statistics and metrics that prove just how well we’re doing.”
Speaking of ignoring “a slew of statistics,” figures released by the Louisiana Workforce Commission indicates there were 146,800 unemployed in June in Louisiana, or 7 percent, up from 6.8 percent in May and the sixth straight month of increased unemployment.
Unemployment rates, it should be noted, count only those unemployed who continue to seek jobs, not those who have given up looking. That said, the fact that only 30 percent of the state’s unemployed (tied with Tennessee for fifth lowest) are receiving unemployment benefits would seem to contradict the administration’s rosy outlook.
Lansing, of course, fell back on certain business surveys which seem to come out every week painting the state as some kind of idyllic garden spot for business climate—all while Louisiana’s college graduates continue to leave the state in droves in search of better opportunities elsewhere.
If Louisiana is such an attractive magnet for business and jobs, someone please explain how this state has managed to go from eight to six congressmen (congressional representation is based on population, remember) and is projected by some experts to drop to five with the next census. (If all those people who have left the state had stayed, we can’t help but wonder what the unemployment rate would be.)
Lansing also pointed to decreases in Medicaid and food stamp enrollment and improved per capita income statistics to bolster the administration’s claim that Jindal is some sort of economic miracle worker.
But wait! Let’s take the food stamp enrollment first. “A state can have a great program, but if they make it really, really hard for people to qualify for benefits, then it’s just a great program sitting there that no one can use,” said Rebecca Dixon, policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.
And those decreases in Medicaid were brought about in large part by the administration’s policies that have drastically reduced payments to doctors for treating Medicaid patients. As their own push back, many doctors have simply quit accepting new Medicaid patients. One doctor recently told LouisianaVoice that he can see a Medicaid patient “but if I have to order any procedures on that patient, Medicaid won’t pay, so I just don’t take any more Medicaid patients.”
Likewise, Baton Rouge area hospitals have very quietly begun laying off nurses and other personnel—a move directly attributable to the cutback in Medicaid payments approved by the Department of Health and Hospitals under the Jindal administration.
Greg Albrecht, chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, took issue with Jindal’s claim that the climb in unemployment was not related to state layoffs.
“It can’t be the only factor, but to say they’re unrelated seems to be unrealistic and mathematically it can’t be,” he said. “I don’t think you can say the unemployment rate is not influenced by government employment layoffs.”
Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret, ever the optimist at $320,000 per year (and who wouldn’t optimistic be at that salary?) said he expects the unemployment rate to drop because the state has thousands of jobs “in the pipeline” because of a large number of “just huge” projects in the works across the state. “As I look at the next few years, I see tens of thousands of new jobs,” he said. “I’m quite optimistic about the future.”
Tens of thousands? Wow again. Dude, there are people in this state who can’t hold out for the future, even for a “few years.”
Let’s go back to that 24/7 Wall St. report:
Job growth was relatively slow in the worst states to be employed because new job opportunities were taking longer to materialize. “In most of these states, the number of nonfarm jobs grew slower than the 1.3 percent national rate between June 2012 and June 2013,” it said.
In Louisiana, the nonfarm jobs grew at a whopping 1.1 percent during that time frame. So much for that healthy business climate.
Tens of thousands of new jobs on the horizon?
That’s a lot of guys standing on street corners dancing around like a dog in need of worming while playing air guitar on a cardboard pizza store sign.
That’s a lot of burgers and soft drinks.
You want fries with that?