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The number of employed in Louisiana continues to go up and so does the unemployment rate

Labor numbers for December show it was another record breaking month for Louisiana employment. Louisiana Workforce Commission director Curt Eysink, says total nonfarm employment grew to 1,992,200, as private employers added 34,000 jobs over the year. He says professional businesses services is one of their strongest sectors for job growth.

"These are people who are well educated, they earn really good salaries and their work typically is important in producing or generating projects that employ other people," Eysink said.
Louisiana's unemployment rate also continues to go up, even though the number of people who are employed is also increasing. Eysink says the higher unemployment rate is not because of layoffs, but because more people are looking for jobs. 
"People are entering our labor force in record numbers and there's a break there, between the time they start looking for work and when they find work," Eysink said. 
The statewide unemployment rate for December was 6.7 percent, up 1.3 percent from the year before. 
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Is the price of gas bottoming out?

According to the American Automobile Association, the statewide average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is at $1.87 for the second day in a row.  So has the price bottomed out?  

AAA fuel analyst Don Redman says that is possible as the price of crude oil has stabilized between $45 and $48 a barrel.
"We're looking at the wholesale gasoline kind of settled between the $1.31 - $1.33 range.  So it does look like, indeed, that we have reached some kind of plateau."

But he says there is a chance that we could still see prices slip as we head into February.

"But, certainly, by mid to late February, I think we'll start seeing some of those prices moving upward as we start heading into spring."

Redman says the drop in fuel costs is astounding, especially when you compare prices to this time last year.

"It's almost a dollar a gallon difference.  It's pretty significant change in how the prices have fallen from just over a year ago." 
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Ascension deputies working double homicide

Michelle Southern reporting.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff's office says they are investigating a double homicide in Donaldsonville. Chief Deputy Tony Bacala says they got the call Monday around 3:30pm and when they arrived at the scene they located 37-year-old Chad Nichols dead on the front lawn of his house.

29-year-old Benny Booker of Prairieville was found shot in the doorway of the residence and he succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital.

Bacala says as of right now they don't know who is responsible for these murders.

"They came to that house in a 2008-2011 white BMW 3 series vehicle and when they left the also stole Bookers vehicle which is a 2007 white Dodge Magnum," said Bacala.

Investigators are actively searching for both cars at this time.

Bacala says they believe the victims were targeting by the shooters.

"We feel like somebody went there probably to rob them," said Bacala.

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Louisiana students find themselves in blizzard

As the northeast gets pounded by a blizzard, a group of Louisiana high school students find themselves in the middle of it in New York City.  Students from Cedar Creek School in Ruston are in the Big Apple on a school trip.  

Director of Student Activities Elizabeth Walker says yesterday's curfew cancelled the Broadway show they planned to attend, but they are making the best of the situation.
"Had a couple of snow ball fights and just making the best of what we do get to see in New York.  This is the first time for several of us to be here, so we want to take advantage of what we can."

Walker says the group totals 27 people, including 14 students.  She says that, even with the weather conditions being less than optimal, they are taking in as much of New York as they possibly can.  Walker says the group did get to experience Central Park.

"We felt like we were the only ones in Central Park, yesterday.  We had several snow ball fights and took in the beautiful scenery.  It was a great experience for us."

Walker says the eight inches of snow has actually made this a fun trip for everyone in the group.  She says this trip is one that everyone will remember for a long time.  Walker says they are scheduled to fly back home tomorrow.

"As far as we have heard, we should still be able to get out, but there is a chance our flight could be cancelled.   So, if it is, then we're just going to truck another day in New York and find something fun to do."
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New DHH program promotes a healthier Louisiana

The State Department of Health and Hospitals sets up a program that encourages Louisiana residents to take control of their health.  The program is called "Own Your Own Health".  It's a three month wellness challenge that can assist residents in living a healthier lifestyle.  

Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Director Rudy Macklin says you can participate as an individual or part of a team.
"And they can choose one of two challenges, the weight loss challenge or the physical activity steps challenge.  It's like two challenges in one."

The challenges are meant to motivate Louisianians to make small daily steps in creating and maintaining a healthier lifestyle.  You can sign up at oyohla-dot-com.  To help keep participants on-track, Macklin says a daily e-mail will be sent.

"Here's your meals for the day:  here's your breakfast for the day, your lunch, and your dinner.   And here are the physical activities we recommend that you do based on your age.  Because we have a nutrition plan based on age."

They're also offering prizes for participants who log-in and update their progress.  Macklin says another aspect of OYOH is called "Own Your Own Health Now" which helps you make the correct choices regarding your own wellness.

"All those things to do with health care, in general, we show you how to manage your health care and how to, basically, just take responsibility for your own health." 
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Louisiana's budget woes get worse

Falling oil prices will result in an 103-million dollar reduction in spending this fiscal year by state government. That determination was made by the Revenue Estimating Conference, after hearing from the chief economist for the Louisiana legislature, Greg Albrecht.

"We've got further weakness in oil prices and a little bit better picture about oil prices but the news is bad," said Albrecht. 

And based on economists projections, the Revenue Estimating Conference has increased the budget deficit for next fiscal year by another 203-million dollars to one-point-six billion. Albrecht says weak oil prices are to blame for these falling oil prices.

"We're going to end this fiscal year and move into the next fiscal year at an oil price that is half of what we ended it in last fiscal year and moved into this fiscal year with," said Albrecht. 

The 103-million dollar deficit for this fiscal year means, the Jindal administration will be forced to make cuts in the next few weeks.

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ATM skimming scam along I-10 corridor

State Police are assisting in an investigation looking into an ATM scheme where customer's debit card numbers and pins may have been compromised along the I-10 corridor. Whitney Bank issued a statement acknowledging they found devices called "skimmers" on ATM machines. 

"Right now we have several ongoing investigations including many local jurisdictions and also the Secret Service which is now getting involved because it is across many jurisdictions and even across some of our neighboring states," said State Police Sgt Nick Manale.
Whitney bank says as an extra precaution they have deactivated and reissued about 71- hundred debit cards. Manale says people need to be watching their accounts and statements to check for possible fraudulent charges.
"We suspect that it is a group of individuals who are working some major cities along the I-10 corridor but the biggest message right now for our listeners is to be aware of the activity going on in their own account," said Manale.
Manale says "skimmers" are placed to look like they are part of the ATM. He says these devices steal some of the bar code information off of card as well as the PIN number entered into the machine.
"It may look like something that is added to the credit card slot or a piece of the ATM that may or may not look right and it's something you can immediately report to your bank and they can look into," said Manale.
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Entergy opens new power plant

Entergy cut the ribbon on a new power plant in suburban New Orleans that company officials say will reduce fuel costs and produce reliable and affordable power for Louisiana customers.

Entergy Spokesperson Mike Burns says Ninemile 6 is already using 30 percent less fuel than other natural gas combustion plants.
"Well the unit is projected to reduce fuel costs by about 50 million dollars in 2015 and another 69 million dollars in 2016," Burns said.
This is the first power plant Entergy has opened in Louisiana in 30 years. Burns says Ninemile 6 was completed under budget and ahead of time.
"The plant was finished several months ahead of schedule and at a cost of about 655 million dollars, substantially below the original budget of 721 million dollars," Burns said.
The plant helps Louisiana's economy by creating more jobs. Burns says Entergy plans to keep improving and modernizing their services and plants.
"We have a lot of older resources that need to either be upgraded or replaced and that is Entergy's plan moving forward," Burns said.

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