Six of Louisiana’s nine metro areas added nonfarm jobs in the 12-month period through January.
Gains were posted in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria and Hammond, the state’s newest designated metro area, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday in preliminary numbers not adjusted for seasonal factors.
The Houma-Thibodaux area lost 700 nonfarm jobs over the 12-month period to total 43,900; Shreveport-Bossier City dipped 600 to 181,500; Monroe fell 500 to 76,900.
As a whole, the state added 24,400 new jobs over the period for a total 1.97 million nonfarm jobs.
BATON ROUGE: The nine-parish Baton Rouge metropolitan area snapped up nearly 48 percent of Louisiana’s new nonfarm jobs, 11,600 of them, to reach 394,800.
“It’s exciting that the Baton Rouge area is helping to drive job growth in Louisiana,” said Adam Knapp, president and chief executive officer of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. “This has been a pretty significant trend for more than a year now,” Knapp added. He said much of that growth has been due to a “manufacturing renaissance that has been going on for two or three years and expansion of the construction industry that supports that.”
Knapp also said diversified growth — including the arrivals of software companies such as IBM, Stixis Technologies and EA Sports — have strengthened the capital area’s economy.
“We see this sector growing year by year,” Knapp added.
Growth across several sectors and throughout the metro area should continue through next year, the BRAC chief added. He said 10,000 new jobs are expected in the metro this year, and another 7,500 to 8,000 should arrive in 2016.
NEW ORLEANS: Its job total boosted by 4,900 to 560,300.
Federal officials expanded the New Orleans metro to eight parishes by adding St. James Parish to its statistical area in January. Figures for January 2014 were adjusted to include St. James.
“It was actually a great year for us,” said Michael Hecht, president and chief executive officer of nonprofit Greater New Orleans Inc. “Over the past year, Greater New Orleans saw a broad number of economic announcements that were most notable for their diversity.”
Hecht said that diversity ranged commercially “from heavy industrial to technological” and geographically from “the south shore (of Lake Pontchartrain), to the north shore, to the (Mississippi) river region.”
That diversity, Hecht said, will continue to add jobs to the area and make it more resilient in the face of economic downturns.
In 1981, when a downturn in the oil and gas industries began and devastated Louisiana’s economy for years, Hecht noted, those industries accounted for 36 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. By the end of 2013, Hecht said, those industries accounted for 8 percent of Louisiana’s gross domestic product.
LAFAYETTE: The metro, which added Iberia, Vermilion and Acadia parishes in January to Lafayette and St. Martin, recorded 1,000 new jobs over the year. The new parishes were factored in for January 2014 comparisons.
“The addition of 1,000 jobs in the Lafayette MSA over the year to January 2015 is another sign of our regional economic momentum,” said Jason El Koubi, president and chief executive officer of One Acadiana, formerly known as the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. “Without the recent decline in oil prices, our regional growth would have been even stronger.”
The addition of three parishes to the Lafayette metro boosted its total of nonfarm jobs to 218,800.
El Koubi said a third of those jobs are in Iberia, Vermilion and Acadia parishes. He said those jobs add prominence to the Lafayette metropolitan area because they helped boost the metro 59 places to the 108th-largest in the U.S.
“This improvement is helpful in attracting businesses, particularly those with specific interests related to market size, such as quality-of-life amenities, workforce availability and consumer demand,” El Koubi said.
LAKE CHARLES: The metro gained 7,400 jobs to reach 100,700 over the year ended Jan. 31.
Longtime LSU economist Loren Scott, who now heads his own consulting company, said the big boost in Lake Charles jobs is due to ongoing industrial construction jobs. Scott said that was true for many of the job gains across south Louisiana. “It’s construction,” he said.
Stephen R. Barnes, director of LSU’s Division of Economic Development, expressed some similar thoughts.
“I think there’s a clear relationship to the timing of a lot of the (industrial expansion) projects in the Baton Rouge area” and growth in the construction sector, Barnes said. “Rapid growth in the Baton Rouge area can be tied to that expansion,” Barnes added.
“As we look ahead to the next year, that story may shift a little bit more toward Lake Charles,” Barnes said.
OTHER AREAS: The Alexandria area, which suffered several job losses in 2014, rallied to gain 1,400 for the 12-month period to reach 64,000.
Hammond, which did not become a federally designated metropolitan area until January, saw its year-over-year job total increase by 1,200 to 64,000. The state’s newest metro includes one parish, Tangipahoa.
The Houma-Thibodaux metro led the state in job losses, dropping 700 nonfarm positions by Jan. 31.
Barnes attributed the Houma-Thibodaux metro loss to the downturn in oil and gas prices.
Diversification mentioned by Knapp, Hecht and El Koubi will help blunt the economic impact of the collapse in oil prices, Barnes said. Job growth may slow this year, but any downturn should be less severe than what Louisiana suffered through in the 1980s.