(AP) A new study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition has found that nearly 1.4 million Americans — more than half the total population — receive some form of unemployment assistance.
The report, released Tuesday by the National Association of State and Territorial Housing Officers, shows Louisiana was No. 1 in receiving unemployment assistance, with 1.36 million eligible Americans receiving the federal government’s unemployment insurance benefits in 2017.
California came in second at 1.16 million.
It’s the first time Louisiana has topped the list since the program was created in 2007.
“We have a lot of people who have no idea they’ve got this unemployment aid, so they don’t know how to apply,” said Melissa Stokes, president and CEO of the National League of Cities.
Stokes said the survey was designed to give housing advocates and policymakers a better understanding of how many people in Louisiana receive unemployment assistance and how much it costs.
The NOLIHCS data also revealed that New Orleans, where more than 30 percent of residents live below the federal poverty line, had the highest number of unemployed residents at 3.34 million, with more than one in six people living below the poverty line.
The city of Baton Rouge was second with 3.27 million residents.
The number of people living in poverty nationally declined by more than 8,000 people in 2017, to 3.25 million.
The state is also experiencing the largest drop in its unemployment rate.
The rate dropped to 5.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017, down from 6.7 percent the year before.
In Louisiana, the rate fell by more, from 7.4 percent in 2016 to 6.6 percent in 2017 — and it is the lowest rate in the country.
In addition to the NOLHCS survey, Stokes and others said the results of the data suggest that the number of state workers and private-sector workers who receive unemployment benefits has continued to decline since 2008, with the number declining from 10.3 million in 2008 to 8.4 people in 2016.
In 2015, a large number of those receiving unemployment benefits were government employees, many of whom are not covered by unemployment insurance.
In 2017, the government had 2.35 million public sector workers and 2.28 million private- sector workers, according to the data.
Stakes in Louisiana were especially high in the housing market, which has been devastated by Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters.
The National Association for Housing Policy and Research said the number and percentage of people receiving unemployment aid has dropped dramatically since 2007, but it also said that Louisiana’s job growth rate has been the highest in the nation, and it continues to attract more and more workers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said in September that employment growth in the U.s. housing industry was 1.3 percent in May, the lowest since the data began in 1980.
In recent years, many states have cut back on job training for their workforce, which is why there are more unemployed people than job openings, according.
“The number of Americans who are unemployed is not going to go up, not ever,” Stokes told the Associated Press.
St. John the Baptist Parish, the poorest parish in Louisiana, was the largest recipient of federal unemployment benefits, with about 1.2 million people receiving benefits.
In the fall of 2017 a federal judge in New Orleans granted a request for a temporary injunction in a lawsuit filed by the Louisiana Human Rights Commission seeking to stop the state from denying unemployment benefits to residents of the parish.
Stites said that when the injunction was issued in January, St. Johns Parish residents and others across the state began taking advantage of the federal program.
Stainsville, a small parish in the southern part of the state, had nearly half the residents on the unemployment rolls as of July 2017, Stakes said.
About 1.6 million people in the St. Lawrence Parish, one of the largest and most economically diverse in the state’s northernmost area, also received unemployment benefits in 2016, Stasesville Parish District Attorney Joe McGraw said.
Stores and businesses were closing, the number with workers dropped from 2,300 in 2010 to just over 600 in 2016 and unemployment benefits dropped by about a third to about $300 a month in the fall, McGraw told the AP.
“It’s very hard for a business owner to get the workers that they need and for a small business owner, it’s very difficult,” McGraw added.
The federal program, which pays unemployment benefits and other benefits to families who lose jobs and to workers who lose their jobs, was established to help working families.
It was created to help the unemployed after a recession, as well as people who lose work during a natural disaster.
The program, once popular with the working poor, has been severely cut off by Republican governors who have refused to expand it or to provide additional assistance. For years,