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Unemployment climbing in N.O.
Metrowide rate hits 7.2% as storm still taking toll on jobs
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
By Ronette King

While unemployment fell statewide last month, The jobless rate in the New Orleans area rose to 7.2 percent, up from 6.4 percent in May, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Department of Labor.

Last month's unemployment rate is higher than the 6.1 percent level of a year ago. The rate has climbed two months in a row as the number of people seeking work has risen faster than the number of jobs, which has also increased.

The number of jobs was up 7,457 from May for a total of 411,955, but it was still down from 595,755 in June of last year.

The decline in jobs from last year signals that the metro area hasn't rebounded from Hurricane Katrina, the Labor Department said. The New Orleans area includes Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes.

"Overall we see that employment growth in the New Orleans area is spread through different industries," said Patty Lopez, labor market analyst for the Department of Labor.

Government employment increased by 800 because public elementary and secondary school schedules extended into June, a month later than usual, Lopez said. The trade and transportation sector gained 700 jobs, the majority in the warehouse and transportation sector.

But Labor Department researchers recognize the figures don't capture all construction jobs, which can be tough to account for. The construction sector was nearly flat with 19,300 jobs, 100 fewer than in May but far fewer than the 30,000 jobs a year ago.

Job numbers in the construction sector don't include the migrant workers drawn to the area to help rebuild. Additionally, employers for out-of-state workers don't pay into the state's unemployment insurance fund, and so those workers aren't included in the Labor Department's survey of employers.

"That's part of the economy we know is active and we're very glad for it, but it's very hard to measure," Lopez said.

Similarly, doing random household surveys to find out the number of working adults living there is tricky. Normally households are randomly selected, contacted by telephone and are asked to participate in the survey for nine months. But people living in a house without telephone service are overlooked, Lopez said.

Statewide, the unemployment picture has improved since last year. Unemployment in June fell to 4.6 percent from the 5.2 percent in May. In June 2005, it was 5.5 percent statewide. The number of people without jobs in June in Louisiana was 86,331 compared with 98,475 in May.

"People who were looking for work in May were able to find jobs," said state Labor Secretary John Warner Smith.

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Ronette King can be reached at or (504) 826-3308