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Monday, July 16, 2018

GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS ON LOCAL ECONOMY

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Numbers can be interpreted in different ways

Recent headlines have touted “good news” for the local and state economy.

The Southern Business and Development magazine ranked Louisiana number two for the strongest economic development results in 2017. This high ranking, right behind Kentucky, was based on the state’s share of leading capital investment and job creation projects.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) reported last month that the number of employed in the state was the second highest in history.

In all the details reported in June by the LWC, one was very notable. Shreveport lost 500 jobs from April 2018.

The Northwest Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP) reported this month that the local cost of living index is the second lowest in the state. Computed on a national average of 100 percent, Shreveport/Bossier is listed at 89.5 percent.

Monroe has the lowest rate at 88.6 percent. Baton Rouge has the highest rate in the state (101.8 percent). New Orleans is a close second at 100.4 percent.

But, there is bad news. One of the most defined measures of economic vitality is the unemployment rate.

Like any statistical measure, employment rates can be reported using different metrics and with various adjustments. And the fact that the reports are always a month or so dated also clouds evaluation.

But after all the spin, the bottom line number is easy to review. And for May, it was an ugly number. The highest in Louisiana.

The national unemployment rate in May, was 3.6 percent. The lowest was Ames, Iowa, at 1.5 percent. The highest was Yuma, Ariz., at 16 percent.

Here are the May rankings:

• Lake Charles, 3.7 percent
• Baton Rouge, 4.2 percent
• New Orleans, 4.4 percent
• Houma/Thibodeaux, 4.8 percent
• Lafayette, 4.9 percent
• Shreveport-Bossier, 5.2 percent
• Monroe, 5.5 percent
• Hammond, 5.5 percent.

Many economic indicators can be reviewed to determine the strength of a local economy. And of course, the numbers can be interpreted in different ways. The unemployment rate is the best-known, the easiest to understand, and generally the most-reported.

No matter how this rate is considered, the news is not good for Shreveport-Bossier. This rate reflects what most members of the business community would confidentially report. Local business is stagnant.

As Shreveport heads into the council and mayoral elections in November, one can expect much drum-beating on economic development. How much noise will be made over the economy versus real promises for improvement is a question to be answered.

John E. Settle Jr. has been a resident of Shreveport since January 1977. His articles appear regularly in local publications. He can be reached at 742-5513 or e-mail to: secretary@jesettle.com.

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