- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Louisiana’s unemployment rate dropped sharply to 5.7 percent in December, even as the state’s labor force expanded.

A separate survey shows payrolls fell slightly from November, but remain 19,000 jobs above December 2012. Both sets of figures - adjusted to cancel out normal seasonal changes - were released Tuesday by the U.S. Labor Department.

It’s the fourth straight month unemployment has fallen in Louisiana, as the state’s job market recovered from a slowdown in early 2013. Louisiana’s unemployment rate was 6.3 percent in November and 5.6 percent in December 2012.

Rhode Island had the nation’s worst jobless rate at 9.1 percent, while North Dakota was again lowest at 2.6 percent. Unemployment rates fell or were unchanged in 44 U.S. states in December. The Labor Department said Tuesday that employers added jobs to payrolls in 30 states and cut jobs 19.

The national unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in December from 7 percent in November. It was also below the 7.9 percent level of December 2012.

There were 119,000 unemployed Louisianans in December, down from 131,000 in November, but above 117,000 in December 2012.

“Louisiana’s unemployment rate in December improved because more people found work,” said Louisiana Workforce Commission Executive Director Curt Eysink. “Nationally, the unemployment rate went down because more people dropped out of the workforce completely.”

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 many economists use as their top labor market indicator.

Louisiana’s nonfarm payrolls fell to 1.96 million people in December, falling by 3,000 from November after setting an all-time high for the fourth month in a row.

Payrolls remained 19,000 above December 2012 levels. Since bottoming out in early 2010, Louisiana payrolls have risen almost 5 percent, outstripping the number of jobs lost during the recession.

Employment rose during the month only in the trade, transportation and utilities sector and the education and health services sector.

The broadest measure of those who are unemployed averaged 12.6 percent in Louisiana during the 12 months that ended September 30, the most recent figures available. That rate includes not only those counted as jobless in the standard survey, but also 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 14.1 percent during the same time.

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Online:

BLS state unemployment report: http://1.usa.gov/104hKGL

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Follow Jeff Amy at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy

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