La. jobless rate drops to 7 percent in September

Louisiana's unemployment rate fell nearly half a percentage point to 7 percent in September, tying for the second-largest drop among all states, according to figures released Friday.

That's down from 7.4 percent in August. The drop was behind only South Carolina's 0.5 percentage point improvement. September was the second month in a row the unemployment rate dropped in Louisiana, after no improvement since January, when joblessness hit a post-recession low of 6.9 percent.

Louisiana had a 7.2 percent unemployment rate in September 2011.

The number of unemployed Louisianans fell to 144,000 from 154,000 in August. In September 2011, the state had 148,000 unemployed people.

Almost 6,000 more people said they had a job in September, while 4,000 left the labor force. It was the second-straight decline in the labor force after the number of workers and job seekers hit 2.08 million in June and July. Except for three volatile months after Hurricane Katrina, those two months saw the highest number of Louisianans ever in the labor market.

The unemployment rate is calculated by a survey that asks how many people are looking for a job. A second survey each month asks employers how many people are on their payrolls, a measure that many economists look to as their top labor market indicator.

Total Louisiana payrolls fell to 1.94 million in September, down 6,700 jobs from August, according to numbers adjusted to cancel out predictable seasonal fluctuations. After coming close to matching the state's pre-Hurricane Katrina payroll peak in April, the state has slipped away from that ceiling.

Payrolls remain 23,000 above September 2011 levels.

Among business sectors where payroll jobs rose in Louisiana in September were professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, construction and financial activities. Payrolls fell in government; trade, transportation and utilities; manufacturing; and education and health services.

Overall, jobless levels fell in 41 states, rose in six and were flat in three. Nevada retained the highest unemployment rate at 11.8 percent, and North Dakota kept the lowest at 3 percent.

The national unemployment rate dipped to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August. It remained below the 9 percent level of September 2011.

The broadest measure of those who are unemployed averaged 13 percent in Louisiana over the 12 months ending June 30, the most recent figures available. That number includes people who are looking for work only sporadically, have given up looking or are working part time because they can't find a full-time job.

Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 15.3 percent during the same time.