State of Working Louisiana

Louisianans are working at near record numbers, and the state’s unemployment rate continues at or nearrecord lows. The state’s rapid recovery follows a chaotic period of massive, pandemic-related job losses, seesawing energy prices and structural changes to the state and national economies.

Beneath this recent good news lies some stark realities: Wages for most workers are flat, and often are not enough to support a family. There continues to be large wage and income disparities between Blacks and whites, the young and the old, men and women, the highly educated and those with less education. Several of the sectors that employ the largest number of Louisianans and have added the most jobs – retail trade, accommodation and food service, and health care – tend to pay some of the lowest wages and often offer little room for advancement.

This report is meant to give an overview of Louisiana’s economy through the eyes of its workers. While the strength of an economy is often measured in gross domestic product, corporate profits or the fate of the stock market, the most important economic question is how it serves ordinary citizens: Do most people’s jobs allow them to afford a safe place to live, food for their table, and reliable transportation?

A strong minimum wage, tax credits for working families, new investments in education and training, and pro-union policies that make it easier for workers to advocate for themselves can all move Louisiana toward a more equitable economy that works for everyone. But these policy solutions can only take root if we start by asking the right questions.