Recovery is not just a slogan in New Orleans.
It’s really happening.
But maybe not as quickly or as robustly as some might envision. The economy in the state’s largest metro region has still not returned to its pre-Hurricane Katrina strength, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institution, which analyzed the recovery of the country’s 100 largest metro areas as they climb out of the Great Recession.
New Orleans ranked in the category known as the “Weakest 20 Metros” in the report, known as “MetroMonitor: Tracking Economic Recession and Recovery in America’s 100 Largest Metropolitan Areas.”
The region’s gross metropolitan product — a measure of the goods and services produced by an area — ranked dead last in the report which looked at the change in each region’s GMP since peaking. In New Orleans, that peak came in the second quarter of 2005. Since then GMP has fallen 15.6 percent. However, that dismal showing is not to say ground hasn’t been gained. New Orleans’ GMP has increased 13.2 percent since the Crescent City hit its low point at the end of the fourth quarter of 2005 in the months just following Hurricane Katrina when the city was nearly all but shut down.
In fact, when looking at “change in employment from trough,” the MetroMonitor report put New Orleans in the No. 1 spot.
“They’re bouncing back. But they’re bouncing from such a low, that they still have pretty far to go,” said Harold Wial, a researcher in urban and regional issues at the Brookings Institution.
Some 614,300 people were employed in the New Orleans area in 2004, said Loren Scott, a retired LSU economist and a close follower of the state’s economy. In May, the Louisiana Workforce Commission reported New Orleans employment at 528,300. The MetroMonitor report showed New Orleans employment falling 15.4 percent since cresting in the second quarter of 2004. “So they are way below,” Scott said.
“They are way below where they used to be,” he added, describing the New Orleans recovery as, “slow and lazy growth.”
“It has not been a V,” Scott remarked. “It has been a kindergarten L.”
This is despite the relatively good news found in the Louisiana Workforce Commission’s employment reports every month, which show job growth. New Orleans gained 4,900 jobs between May 2010 and May 2011, according to the commission.
New Orleans employment has increased 19 percent since its low mark at the end of 2005, according to the MetroMonitor report earning it another No. 1 spot.