NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana's unemployment rate crept up nearly half a percentage point in May even though the state set records for private employment and total nonfarm employment.
The 8,500 jobs gained since April brought Louisiana's nonfarm employment to a record 1.97 million in May, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Private employers added 25,300 jobs in the 12 months ending in May, a news release said.
Louisiana's unemployment rate, which had remained steady at 4.5 percent from March through April, rose to 4.9 percent last month. That, according to the state, was largely caused by students looking for summer jobs. However, according to the commission, it was Louisiana's lowest rate for the month since 2008.
It was the first time in eight months that the number of people saying they had jobs went down in the monthly federal survey.
The May rate was 1.5 percent below the rate in May 2013 and remained well below the national rate, which was stable at 6.3 percent. Thirteen states had lower rates; Idaho's was also 4.9 percent. Last month, Louisiana had the nation's 10th-lowest unemployment rate.
The states with the nation's highest and lowest unemployment rates remained the same: Rhode Island at 8.2 percent and North Dakota at 2.6 percent.
The U.S. Labor Department makes two surveys: one of employers, asking how many people are on their payrolls, the other of workers and would-be workers. Both sets of figures, adjusted to cancel out normal seasonal changes, were released Friday.
The number of people working and looking for jobs in Louisiana rose 5,800 while the number holding jobs fell 2,800. Those out of work rose by 8,500, from 94,800 in April to 103,300 in May.
Employers in only two sectors reported falling numbers of jobs — 100 fewer in mining and logging, and 500 fewer in "other," a wide-ranging area that includes repairing machinery, writing grants, pet care and preaching. The bulk of the increases were 2,400 in trade, transportation and utilities, 2,100 in leisure and hospitality and 1,900 in construction.
Over the year, professional and business services added 8,300 jobs, with another 7,200 in leisure and hospitality; 4,900 in trade, transportation, and utilities; 3,900 in construction and 2,300 in education and health services.
About 134,300 people were working in construction, the highest level since October 2013, the state said.
"Our forecasts anticipate construction hiring will ramp up sharply for the next several years," said Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
Online: State employment report: http://1.usa.gov/104hKGL