The nation pauses this weekend to pay tribute to the workers who contribute to the strength, prosperity and well-being of the country. Meanwhile, of all Vernon Parish citizens who are working or looking for work, about 13 of every 100 are unemployed.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 7.3 per cent rate in Vernon compares to a statewide unemployment rate, in July, of 5.6 per cent. This means that about 1225 people in Vernon needed jobs as July turned into August.
The numbers are slightly better than the month before, and the statewide rate is a full 1 per cent better than a year earlier. This math is encouraging for state labor officials. “These numbers are a clear indication that Louisiana’s employment outlook is gradually improving. We hope to continue on this positive trajectory until all eligible job seekers are paired up with available job opportunities,” said Ava Dejoie, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
The monthly report said there are about 119,000 unemployed among the Louisiana civilian labor force of about 2 million men and women. Private employment is about 1.7 million and government (federal, state and local) jobholders number about 300,000.
Vernon is closely aligned with employment trends across the Central Louisiana belt, stretching from the Sabine River to the Mississippi and north-south from Winn to Avoyelles.
The Lake Charles unit has 4.3 per cent unemployment, gaining 5,700 jobs from a year earlier, the 73rd consecutive month with year-over-year increases.
Parishes in that zone include Sabine, 5.7 per cent unemployed; Natchitoches, 6.7; Winn, 7.1; Lasalle, 5.1; Catahoula, 7.9; Concordia, 8.5; Avoyelles, 7.1; Rapides, 6.1; and Grant, 7.1.
Those who are employed are making more than they were if they held the same job last Labor Day.
Average weekly private sector weekly earnings in July were $828.21. That compares to $789.40 a year earlier. In the Lake Charles MSA, that average is $829.12; in the Alexandria MSA it is $644.83.
The most-recent figures available show union members accounted for 4.2 per cent of wage and salary workers in Louisiana in 2016.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Assistant Commissioner for Regional Operations Stanley Suchman, that is the lowest in the state since BLS starting keeping track in 1989. The national rate in 2016 was 10.8 per cent.
According to BLS, Louisiana had 76,000 union members in 2016. Another 12,000 wage and salary works were represented by a union on their main job or covered by an employee association or contract while not being union members themselves.
The “right to work” with or without labor affiliation was, of course, one of the major political battles of the last half of the 20th Century.
The Louisiana AFL-CIO, under leadership of Victor Bussie, held sway in Baton Rouge through the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Business leaders at that point formed the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry to counter Organized Labor and to push for a right-to-work law.
The clashes of Bussie and LABI executive director Ed Steimel, with legislators in between, are the stuff of Louisiana political legend.
In 1976, the Legislature narrowly approved RTW legislation, meaning a worker did not have to join a union or association or guild or any other group to gain employment.
Business said the law was needed to keep unions from forcing employees to join and pay dues; labor argued RTW was merely a smokescreen to weaken unions and lower wages.