FILE - Baton Rouge Mississippi River

Aerial view of Baton Rouge and the Mississippi River

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 223,000 new jobs were added in May and more than 164,000 were added in April this year. Nationwide, the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent, the lowest level since early 2000.

With a booming economy and employment openings, the consumer site WalletHub analyzed which states are the best to find a job.

Its “2018’s Best & Worst States for Jobs” ranked all 50 states according to 29 key indicators to determine how states fared. Its “top ten states to find a job” are, in order of ranking, Washington, Colorado, Minnesota, Utah, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Vermont, Massachusetts, Florida and Texas.

The ten worst states to get a job are West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Alabama, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Wyoming.

Louisiana ranked fourth from last, 47th out of 50 states. The Pelican State’s ranking hovered near the bottom in several categories: 47th for its job market, 32nd for its economic environment, 47th for having the fewest job opportunities, 46th for having the highest unemployment rate, 46th for its workers having the longest time working, and 47th for its workers having the lowest job satisfaction.

“The state ranked poorly for overall job opportunities and employment opportunities, as well as for job satisfaction," WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez told Watchdog.org. "Aside from the job market's status, the economic environment in Louisiana is also in poor shape. About 10 percent of the state's workers live below the poverty line, the third highest share in the country."

But according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, based on the most recently released Bureau of Labor and Statistic figures, Louisiana set an all-time seasonally adjusted employment record for July, after an employment record was set for June. Louisiana also set an all-time seasonally adjusted employment record in the month of April.

But Baton Rouge Area Chamber CEO and president Adam Knapp argues that “Baton Rouge is doing as well or better than the U.S. in many cases.” He maintains that despite the Louisiana economy “being in a tough place,” that does not reflect the state's capital city.

Pointing to a 2017 BRAC report, Knapp said the economy is continuing to improve after the 2016 flood, which contributed to the region losing about 4,000 jobs. Within 16 months, the region recovered to employment and economic levels pre-flood, Knapp said.

“We’ve continued to see growth, job creation and expansion,” he said. “Small businesses, as we showed in the data, are experiencing rapid growth.”

The BRAC report notes that between 2012 and 2017 the region experienced 30 percent growth and added more than 30,000 jobs. Jobs in the Baton Rouge area grew by 2.2 percent through October 2017, surpassing the projected growth rate of 1.5 percent for the entire year. BRAC anticipates that throughout 2018, the area will see an additional 4,500 new jobs and a job growth rate of 1.1 percent. It also notes that during the same time period, the state unemployment rate was 4.3 percent and Baton Rouge’s was 3.7 percent.

“I think a lot of folks feel concerned that the economy may not be as good as it has been," Knapp said. "I think what the data points out is that the Baton Rouge area economy is still quite healthy."

Likewise, Michael Key at the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) told Watchdog.org that the LWC helped host more than 1,100 hiring-related events for both employers and job-seekers throughout the state. Its Helping Individuals Reach Employment (HiRE) online system currently has 79,193 open job listings, and the commission is helping spearhead numerous Registered Apprenticeship programs. These programs are offered across industry sectors, including lineman utility training, welding, and ongoing Medical Assistant (MA) Now.

A free program to employers and job seekers is the Incumbent Worker Training Program (IWTP) through which nearly 150 Louisiana employers were approved for more than $18.8 million in IWTP contracts in fiscal 2018. IWTP helped retain more than 24,000 employees and created more than 1,580 jobs, and contributed to an average 7.8 percent wage increase for participants, Key notes. The LWC also offers the Small Business Employee Training (SBET) for employers with 50 or fewer employees.

“Last fiscal year, the LWC approved 1,558 SBET awards, totaling more than $3.7 million in SBET contracts, allowing more than 7,300 existing employees to be trained,” Key said.

In the WalletHub study, two main categories were emphasized, job market and economic environment. For the first, the study analyzed job opportunities, employment growth, unemployment, underemployment, employee outlook, employer benefits, laws and policies, among others. For the second, it looked at median annual income, monthly average starting salary, average length of a work week and commuter time, Earned Income Tax Credit, state income and tax burden, among others.

In these categories, Louisiana’s job market ranked 47th and its economic environment 32nd.

Key also points to a discrepancy with WalletHub’s ranking, noting that top-ranked states Washington and Colorado have high minimum wages ($11.50 and $10.20, respectively).

“As it stands, Louisiana does not have a minimum wage despite multiple legislative attempts to establish one," he said. “It’s clear that the rankings are focused predominantly on job quality (satisfaction, benefits, non-discrimination, disability-friendliness, commuting, etc.) and less so on labor market performance (employment growth, unemployment rate, etc.). All Louisiana employers and business organizations are responsible in helping the state move these indicators in the right direction. It’s also important to note that LWC programs are targeting some of these job quality issues that have historically received little attention, like the inclusiveness of disabled persons in the workplace.”