Will strong U.S. jobs report help alleviate worker shortages in Louisiana?

Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 9:43 PM CDT
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John Snell
John Snell(John Snell)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Some economy watchers in Louisiana hope the robust national jobs report portends good things for the state as many sectors of the economy still need workers.

Dr. Walter Lane is a University of New Orleans economist.

“They’re good numbers, we’re glad to see that. I mean we’ve been hearing for a year and a half now about unemployment and nobody could find jobs and now it’s really turning around and that’s very encouraging,” said Lane.

Michael Hecht is President and CEO of GNO Inc., an economic development organization in the Greater New Orleans area.

“When you look at the national numbers you saw that job growth was over a half million and that outpaced the forecast. We saw that nominal wages grew by 0.4% which is very good, it means that wages are going up to encourage people to come back into the workforce,” said Hecht.

Employers added 531,000 jobs in October, the most since July and a sign that the economy is improving. The jobs report also exceeded expectations.

But does the improving jobs picture portend good things for Louisiana? Lane said, “Yeah, certainly, I mean, we do have some very, very unusual things that make our economy different, you know, the high reliance on tourism, energy, things of that sort that could cause dislocations that are here that are not every place else.”

Hecht says more progress is needed.

“It’s encouraging. It looks like the local population is beginning to turn the corner and the national economy also is beginning to turn the corner, so it’s encouraging but we still have a long way to go because if you look at the numbers it looks like there still are fewer people actually participating in the workforce pre-pandemic,” he said.

Restaurants in Louisiana are still struggling to get enough workers after the pandemic shuttered the economy.

Stan Harris, President, and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association issued the following statement:

“We are hopeful that more people will be seeking to return to the restaurant industry statewide very soon. As to Orleans Parish, the vaccine mandate has limited full-service restaurant revenue opportunities, condensed operating hours and days further limiting growth opportunities.”

Hecht said a restaurant owner told him about ongoing staff shortages.

“I was talking to a restauranteur yesterday and I said how is it looking for November and they said we’re booked solid, but the problem is that we’re only operating at 75%, we just have enough staff up and down,” he said.

And other sectors of the economy need workers as well.

“There is not a single industry that I have talked to from bakery to manufacturer that has not said there is some challenge with product and people. I couldn’t get candles for my wife’s birthday cake because there is a wick shortage,” said Hecht.

New Orleans had a good Halloween weekend which helped the hospitality industry.

“Hotel occupancy was over 90%, so that argues very well for people coming back to New Orleans,” said Hecht.

But he noted that inflation has not disappeared.

“Seeing inflation and so while it’s good news that you have labor rate going up and wages going up, the question is inflation going to more and outpace that because that’s the balance,” said Hecht.

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