Enormous industrial projects, especially in St. James Parish, will help the New Orleans metro area add 4,600 jobs in 2018 and 7,600 in 2019, according to an annually released economic forecast.
The New Orleans area will grow at 0.8 percent in 2018 and 1.3 percent in 2019, making it the state's third-fastest growing metro on a percentage basis behind Lake Charles and Hammond, according to the Louisiana Economic Outlook. The New Orleans economy also will benefit from expansions in the health care sector and the World War II museum, as well as airport construction.
Of the area's $33.7 billion in industrial announcements, about $11 billion is underway, economist Loren Scott said in the economic forecast.
The projects underway include the first phase of Yuhuang Chemicals' $1.85 billion complex in St. James Parish; Monsanto's $975 million expansion in Luling; and Entergy's $869 million power plant in Montz.
The magnitude of those projects is what enabled the area to grow in 2017 despite the "hammer blows" delivered by the oil and gas sector, the report said. The industry's struggles will continue over the next two years. The job losses will be less severe, but recovery in the Gulf of Mexico will remain modest at best without higher oil prices.
The low oil prices that have mired Louisiana's economy in a two-year slump will continue to …
Meanwhile, Scott expects growth to accelerate in 2019 because it will be late 2018 or early 2019 before construction begins on the biggest of the previously announced $22.7 billion in projects. Those projects include Formosa Petrochemicals' $9.4 billion complex in St. James Parish and Venture Global's $8.5 billion liquefied natural gas export facility at the Port of Plaquemines.
Statewide, the oil patch-driven recession ended after 20 months, and the recovery began in May. Louisiana is expected to add 12,000 jobs in 2018 and 22,300 in 2019, growth of 0.6 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.
While Lafayette and Houma-Thibodaux aren't expected to start recovering from the oil slump until 2019, the state's other seven metro areas will add jobs both years, the report said.
"If our projections are on the mark, the state should reach 2,013,600 jobs in 2019, the first time it has exceeded 2,000,000 jobs on an annual basis in its history," Scott said in the report.
By comparison, the Federal Reserve Board projects the U.S. economy will grow by 2 percent in 2018 and 1.8 percent in 2019.
Scott said the New Orleans area's vibrant health care sector will remain a source of job growth. Expect gains from Ochsner Health Systems' $360 million expansion; Provision Healthcare's $100 million proton therapy cancer treatment facility; and the new $250 million Children’s Hospital, a three-phase expansion on the LCMC Health System’s new campus.
With an abundance of new medical construction projects in New Orleans, state and local offic…
Here's how the other metro areas will fare.
BATON ROUGE: The massive industrial projects that drove the area's economy are all but complete. In 2018, the region will add 2,900 jobs, a growth rate of 0.7 percent, and 3,300 jobs, a growth rate of 0.9 percent, in 2019. In last year's Economic Outlook, Scott estimated the Baton Rouge area would add 4,500 jobs each in 2017 and 2018.
LAFAYETTE: Solid performances from Lafayette's "Big Four" — jewelry maker Stuller Settings, Acadian Ambulance, health care consultants Schumacher Group and home nursing firm LHC Group — will help lessen the pain from an oil and gas sector that's still in a recession. More than $60 million budgeted for road projects also will help.
If oil price forecasts are near the mark, the Lafayette area will begin to add jobs in 2019, about 1,600, after experiencing another slight down year of 800 jobs in 2018, the report said.
HOUMA-THIBODAUX: The shipbuilding industry will continue being hammered in 2018, adding to the continuing woes in the oil and gas industry. Expect a loss of 1,800 jobs. In 2019, additional hires at Gulf Island Fabricators, higher sustained oil prices and a significant new LNG facility at Port Fourchon should be enough to add 700 jobs in 2019.
HAMMOND: The streak of adding about 600 jobs a year since 2015 will continue in 2018 but slow to 400 jobs in 2019. Slight additions to employment at North Oaks Hospital and some of the region's smaller manufacturers will help. But how the state resolves its fiscal cliff will affect the budget, enrollment and employment at Southeastern Louisiana University.
LAKE CHARLES: The 4 percent to 5 percent growth fueled by $126 billion in industrial announcements since 2012 will slow to 1.6 percent in 2018. But sometime in the latter part of 2018 or early 2019, construction will start on two to three liquefied natural gas projects and return growth to 4 percent for 2019.
SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY: After almost a decade of decline, the area will begin two years of moderate growth, adding about 1,400 jobs a year, or 0.8 growth, over 2018-19. A rising oil and gas rig count in the Haynesville Shale, gains in the high-tech sector and state road contracts will help.
MONROE: Over 2018-19, the area is projected to add 800 jobs a year and set new employment records in 2018. Expansions at CenturyLink, IBM and Vantage Health Plan are leading the recovery.
ALEXANDRIA: A special two-year information technology project at Cleco, hiring at Union Tank Car and new hires at Crest Industries are expected to reverse the area's employment fortunes. The area will add 300 jobs per year in 2018 and 2019. But the plug has been pulled on three major projects: Sundrop Fuel's $450 million biofuels plant, Investimus Foris' $265 million ammonia plant and Revolution Aluminum's $1.5 billion complex in Pineville.