- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

Louisiana’s unemployment rate stayed flat in May, even as more people found jobs.

The state’s jobless rate remained level at 6.6 percent for the third month. That’s above the 5.9 percent the state recorded in May 2014.

The number of people who told surveyors they had a job hit a record for the third month in a row. But the number of people in the labor force also hit a record for the third month, meaning the unemployment rate didn’t fall.

Overall, growth in the labor force has outstripped the number of people finding jobs in the last year. While 146,000 Louisianans were unemployed in May, level with the number in April, there were 20,000 more unemployed workers than in May 2014.

Nationally, economists have said a growing labor force is a sign of a strengthening recovery, as people who gave up looking for work come off the sidelines as job opportunities improve.

The figures - adjusted to cancel out seasonal changes - were released Friday by the U.S. Labor Department. Unemployment rates rose in 25 states in May, fell in nine, and were flat in 16. Louisiana had the nation’s sixth-highest jobless rate, while West Virginia, at 7.2 percent, had the highest unemployment rate among the states. Nebraska had the lowest, at 2.6 percent

The national unemployment rate ticked up to 5.5 percent in May from 5.4 percent in April. It was down from 6.4 percent a year ago.

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

Louisiana payrolls rose by 4,000 in May. After declines in January, February and March, payroll growth has resumed in Louisiana, with employers reporting 12,000 more jobs than in May 2014. Louisiana still remains short of its all-time high for payrolls, recorded last December, but nonfarm employment numbers are 2.6 percent higher than before the recession.

Jobs rose in professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality and manufacturing. They fell in trade, transportation and utilities; financial activities; construction and government.

The broadest measure of those who are unemployed averaged 12 percent in Louisiana for the year ending in March, the most recent figures released. That includes people who look for work only sporadically, who have given up looking, or who work part time because they can’t find a full-time job.

Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 11.6 percent during the same period.

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This story has been corrected to show employers reported 12,000 more jobs than in May 2014, not 22,000.

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