The Baton Rouge area is projected to add 4,500 jobs in 2018, a slightly slower 1.1 percent gain in employment compared to recent years, according to an economic forecast released Wednesday by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

BRAC based the report on its own analysis, a survey of local businesses and by consulting other forecasts, including the one done by economist Loren Scott.

The BRAC forecast is a bit below the 1.7 percent annual job growth seen in metro Baton Rouge since October 2012. 

“Our data and business survey point to steady progress against the damage caused by the flooding in 2016,” said Adam Knapp, BRAC president and CEO. “Regional jobs have recovered, and we anticipate other indicators to follow a similar positive trajectory over the course of 2018.”

Knapp noted that while last year's BRAC survey projected 1.5 percent job growth in 2017, through October the region has added 9,100 jobs, a 2.2 percent gain. That increase helped metro Baton Rouge rebound from the 4,100 jobs it lost in 2016 — a decline that was mainly caused by the devastating August flood. 

All nine parishes in the metro region are projected to see job growth next year, ranging from as little as 15 more employees in East Feliciana to 2,602 forecast in East Baton Rouge. Ascension is pegged at having 4 percent job growth, adding 1,673 workers; Iberville, Livingston and West Baton Rouge are expected to see 3 percent job growth. 

There are signs that the local economy is healthier than the numbers indicate, Knapp said. He pointed to the Baton Rouge area's gross regional product per capita, which divides the value of all goods and services produced in the area by the population. Baton Rouge's GRP per capita was $62,664 in 2016, well above the U.S. average of $55,520 and ahead of peer cities such as Nashville, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Mobile, Alabama. 

"That's a good sign of productivity," Knapp said.

Once again, businesses said transportation/traffic issues are the biggest obstacle facing the Baton Rouge area. Nearly 20 percent of the companies surveyed called the frequent traffic jams the main problem in the area, while 14.5 percent said workforce issues and 12 percent said lack of good public school options/cost of private school tuition.

The businesses that participated in the BRAC survey are more bullish on the economy than nationally. While 43 percent of local businesses said they would hire more workers in 2018, a survey done by the National Association for Business Economics of company owners found that 34 percent expected to add employees in 2018. And 68 percent expect their revenue to rise, compared to 45 percent in the NABE survey. 

To view the report, visit brac.org/reports

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