Stagnant wages and rising unemployment create challenges for the state
While corporate profits and worker productivity have grown considerably in Louisiana over the past three decades, typical Louisiana workers did not see much improvement in their paycheck, according to a new report by the Louisiana Budget Project.
The report, “State of Working Louisiana 2013,” found the typical worker’s pay increased by only 1 percent since 1979, but worker productivity has increased by 35 percent over that span. Louisiana workers are still facing wage gaps — men still make more than women and whites still make more money than blacks. The largest pay gap is between people with different levels of educational attainment, with those who have at least a bachelor’s degree earning $8.26 an hour ($17,000 per year) more than those without one.
“The Louisiana economy is working well for big corporations, but these gains are not always filtering down to their workers,” LBP Director Jan Moller said. “Most workers are seeing no increase in take-home pay, even though they’re working harder and smarter than ever before.”
A key reason for stagnant wages is the decline in high-paying manufacturing jobs. Although Louisiana has seen a spate of new manufacturing projects in South Louisiana, overall employment in this sector has fallen sharply in recent years – down 10 percent since the start of the recession and 20 percent since the turn of the century.
Louisiana weathered the Great Recession better than most, yet a full recovery is likely years away. The private sector is not creating new jobs fast enough to keep up with population growth, and the continued loss of public-sector jobs is hampering the state’s recovery. The state’s unemployment rate is ticking upward but even the higher “official” rate does not fully reflect a job market where many adults have stopped searching for work altogether due to a lack of work opportunities.
For more information, and a list of prescriptions for reversing course, read LBP’s report, “The State of Working Louisiana.”
*note: Figure 5 was updated to show the percentage change axis.