U.S. adds 163K jobs in July, yet unemployment rises
The 163,000 jobs added by U.S. employers in July was slightly better than the 151,000 added during the average month thus far this year, but not enough to keep the unemployment rate from inching up to 8.3% from 8.2% in June. The figures were released this morning by the Labor Department. July's hiring was the best since February. And despite the rise in the unemployment rate, some economists are feeling pretty good about the numbers. "After a string of disappointing economic reports … we'll certainly take it," says James Marple, senior economist at TD Economics. But some economists say the job gains need to be greater. Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics, says July's job gains were a "vast improvement" over the past four months. Still, he notes they were well below the average 252,000 jobs a month added from December through February. "It also isn't strong enough to drive the unemployment rate lower, which is what the Fed really wants to see. So, on balance, we doubt this would be enough to persuade the Fed to hold fire in September," Ashworth says. The Associated Press has the full story and more analysis here.
LaPolitics by Maginnis: Legislators seek role in changes
Legislators were largely left out of decisions the Jindal administration made in response to Congress' unexpectedly slashing the state's Medicaid financing last month. Now state officials are encouraging them to get involved and come up with solutions, including partnering with community hospitals. Looming in the background is the possibility of the sale or lease of state medical facilities to private companies. "We're going to put everyone in a room and say, 'What's next?' " says Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, about a planned meeting of the Acadiana delegation with LSU, DHH, Louisiana Hospital Association and medical society leaders.
—Baton Rouge District Judge Bill Morvant declared Thursday he has entered the Supreme Court race and may have the inside track on the coveted endorsement by LABI, which is expected today. He hopes to have it, anyway. "Anybody without it probably will be behind the 8-ball," Morvant says. The choice of the business group would come with contributions from its four regional PACs and a fundraising entrée into the business community statewide. "It will not be a local race," says a New Orleans attorney. Along with Morvant, four 1st Circuit Court of Appeal judges have interviewed with LABI: John Michael Guidry (the lone Democrat), Toni Higginbotham, Jeff Hughes and Duke Welch—as have district judges Guy Holdridge of Gonzales, Tim Kelley of Baton Rouge and former Baton Rouge District Attorney Doug Moreau.
They said it: "We call it scholarships. The teacher unions call it four-letter words." —Gov. Bobby Jindal, speaking at the Aspen Institute on the state voucher program, in The Advocate
(John Maginnis publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com.)
Report: Louisianans pay second-highest auto insurance premiums in U.S.
The average Louisiana driver forks over about $2,885 to keep his or her vehicles insured each year, according to a new report from CarInsuranceQuotes.com. That's about 5.5% of the median household income in the state, which is $52,456. By that measure, Louisianans are paying the second-highest auto premiums in the country. Michigan residents spend the most on auto insurance—about 8% of the median household income of $56,101—according to the report. The rate in Louisiana is so high compared to other states because it "is not a no-fault car insurance state. Instead, it has a traditional fault-based system, also called a tort system," the report says. "Experts say the big reason for Louisiana's high car insurance premiums is that, while the state has a fairly average number of car accidents compared with other states, it leads the country in injury claims. In Louisiana, 43% of accidents involving property damage in 2006 included injury claims, compared with the national average of about 24%, according to the Insurance Research Council." See the complete list and the full analysis here; and read a story in the current issue of Business Report, which includes data from another report that says Louisianans pay the highest auto insurance rates in the nation, here.
L'Auberge rolls out entertainment lineup for new B.R. casino
Gospel and soul legend Al Green will be the first performer to take the stage at the nearly complete L'Auberge Casino & Hotel in Baton Rouge, with subsequent concerts planned featuring Harry Connick Jr., Darius Rucker and Better than Ezra in September and October. The Green show is set for Friday, Sept. 14, a little more than two weeks after the casino hosts a grand opening on Aug. 29. Tickets for the show go on sale this morning at 10 a.m. They range from $58.50 to $68.80, including taxes, and can be purchased online here. Green will be performing in the casino's 1,550-seat event center. The casino also features an outdoor festival ground dubbed "The Lawn," with seating for more than 3,500. Darrius Rucker and Better Than Ezra will perform at the casino's first major outdoor show on Oct. 12. Tickets for all shows will be sold via Ticketmaster until the casino opens, at which point they'll also be available on-site. For more information on all the upcoming concerts and the casino's venues, click here.
'225 Dine': Serving food in the face of disaster
Most Baton Rougeans who know the name Wayne Stabiler think of his many successful restaurants—the tasty Le Creole and the successful locations of Italian restaurants The Little Village. But many who know of him have never even heard of his main business—what he refers to half-jokingly as "disaster relief catering." Last month, mere hours after devastating storms left dozens of communities in Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland without power, Stabiler and his crew at Catering Cajun were already on their way to several sites in the hardest-hit areas. With them, they brought food, sleeping trailers, laundry trailers and more—everything you'd need, essentially, to set up a self-contained city for power company workers brought in from surrounding states to fix the problem. Within 24 hours, Catering Cajun was serving up three gourmet meals a day to the exhausted workers, giving them something to look forward to as they worked 16-20 grueling hours in the rising heat to restore power to each town. Access the full story and the rest of the new 225 Dine e-newsletter here.
Israel finds $240B gas hoard stranded by politics
Israel, reliant on imported energy since the state's foundation in 1948, now has more natural gas than it can handle, Bloomberg reports. Noble Energy Inc., Delek Group Ltd. and other explorers have discovered enough gas under the Mediterranean Sea to supply Israel's needs for 150 years. To profit from the finds sooner, the companies want to export the gas by pipeline or ship. As the Ministry of Energy prepares to publish a blueprint for developing the fields later this month, officials say the country's economy and security must come first and that shipments abroad should be limited. Exporting natural gas presents challenges. Environmental opposition and a shortage of land complicate building a plant to liquefy the fuel for export, while an offshore facility or pipelines to nearby countries will be hard to protect. Tapping all of Israel's discoveries, which include Leviathan, a single field holding more gas than Middle East exporter Yemen has in reserves, may prove uneconomic without exports. "I'd be surprised if some of the gas in Israel isn't stranded," says Nick Maden, a senior vice president for international exploration at Statoil, which has been examining the region's potential. This is "the play that most companies will be trying to follow," and there has "been more gas discovered than you can commercialize." Read the full story here.
News roundup: LANO chief named among top 50 leaders for 2012 … Woman's Hospital again named among 100 best places to work … No taxes, but new Lafourche jail would still cost
Top honors: Ann Silverberg Williamson, Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations president and CEO, has been named among 50 of the nation's leading nonprofit executives in an annual ranking released by industry publication The Nonprofit Times. Williamson is cited specifically for her advocacy of new nonprofit revenue models in a state that has seen sector-wide declines in funding following a post-Hurricane Katrina surge in charitable donations. She's the lone Louisianan on the list, which you can see in its entirety here.
Labor of love: For the fifth year in a row, Woman's Hospital is recognized on Modern Healthcare magazine's list of the "100 Best Places to Work in Healthcare." Those workplaces listed include hospitals, insurers, medical suppliers and other health care–related companies. Woman's is one of just eight organizations nationwide to receive this distinction for five consecutive years. See the entire list here.
No free lunch: Lafourche Parish officials have a plan to build a $22 million jail without new taxes, but the proposal would affect the budgets of the Lafourche Council on Aging and the public library system. The proposal calls for reallocating some of the property taxes going to those two agencies. The (Thibodaux) Daily Comet has the full story here.
Today's poll question: Has the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A and the stance against same-sex marriage made public by one of its executives changed how you feel about eating at the restaurant?