Louisianans have returned to work in record numbers since the depths of the pandemic, and the state’s unemployment rate is hovering at record lows. But far too many of the available jobs don’t pay enough to support a family, as low-wage industries are expanding while many high-paying sectors are shrinking. 

The State of Working Louisiana, a new report by the Louisiana Budget Project, offers an in-depth look at these and other trends in the state’s economy, as seen through the eyes of its workers. 

“Too many Louisiana families are unable to meet their basic needs while working full time,” said LBP Deputy Director Stacey Roussel, the report’s co-author. “In 2020, more than half of Louisiana residents were not making enough to live comfortably and the state’s meager minimum wage isn’t even enough to lift a single person above the poverty line.”

There continues to be large wage and income disparities In Louisiana between Blacks and whites, the young and the old, men and women, the highly educated and those with less education. Some of the largest wage gaps are between workers with a college degree and those without.

“Education has a substantial impact on both wages and the ability to find a job,” Roussel said. “Louisianans with a degree earn a median wage that is more than 65% higher than those with a high school diploma.”

Louisiana can start addressing these disparities by establishing a minimum wage, ensuring that the wealthiest people and corporations pay their fair share in taxes and by ensuring all workers have access to benefits such as health insurance and paid leave. Without such protections, too many people are left to forgo the care they need and go to work sick.

“Louisiana has a long way to go before we have an economy that works for everyone,” LBP Executive Director Jan Moller said. “But fortunately we know which policy choices can lead us to a more broad-based prosperity.”