Oct 16, 2013 6:34 PM by AP
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Growth in the Lake Charles and Baton Rouge areas is expected to help boost employment in Louisiana to an all-time high of more than 2 million jobs in 2015 in spite of plodding national growth, a new report said Wednesday.
"Louisiana is one of only 12 states in the U.S. with more people employed today than in January 2008," Louisiana State University economists Loren Scott and James Richardson wrote.
Most of Louisiana's growth will be along Interstate 10 and to the south in the state's southern tier of parishes, said Richardson, a professor, and Scott, professor emeritus.
They also note growth could be influenced by the amount of money Louisiana will get from BP PLC oil spill payments, whether Congress allows proposed increases in flood insurance premiums and possible restraints on spending, especially in the federal defense budget.
They forecast 34,200 new jobs statewide next year and 33,600 the year after, or growth of 1.8 and 1.7 percent. They predict the growth resulting in more than 2 million jobs by the end of 2015.
With $46.6 billion in industrial expansions planned in the Lake Charles area - including Sasol's $16 billion to $21 billion expansion - the 120-page report said growth could be 7,800 jobs or more through 2015. Construction jobs are expected to jump from about 6,000 now to 14,000 in 2016, and a $70 million camp is being built to house 4,000 workers at the Port of Lake Charles. That area leads the state with two-year growth projected at about 8.1 percent.
Next, at 5.6 percent - and 21,700 new jobs - over two years is the nine-parish Baton Rouge metro area. The report said it's "heading into an industrial expansion like none other in its history," with $23.7 billion in industrial projects begun or announced. The Greater Baton Rouge Industrial Manager's Alliance expects construction jobs to rise in the next year from 17,500 to 31,000, the report said.
The slowest growth at 400 jobs over two years, or 0.6 percent, is expected to be in the Monroe area. "One of the state's Fortune 500 firms - CenturyLink - will provide a much needed economic kick to Monroe with its new Technology Center for Excellence and the promise of 800 more jobs by 2016," the economists wrote.
The Shreveport-Bossier area has been in an employment slump for about five years, suffering the loss of a GM plant, cutbacks at Barksdale Air Force Base and Libbey Glass operations as well as a plummeting rig count in the Haynesville Shale gas fields. But the area is expected to add about 900 jobs a year for a total increase of 1 percent - just behind 1.1 percent for the Alexandria metro area, expected to add 700 jobs over two years.
The Houma-Thibodaux area is expected to be the No. 3 growth area, adding 5,200 jobs as petroleum exploration intensifies in the Gulf of Mexico.
Thirty-five parishes outside the eight metro areas are designated as rural. "In a real break from the past," those parishes "will be a great source of new jobs," the economists wrote. Rural job growth is expected to total 4.1 percent, or 15,100 jobs over two years. Part of it is an $8.3 billion industrial construction boom in St. James Parish. Other factors include an expected resurgence in timber and new plants to make wood pellets for export as fuel for power companies.
The Lafayette metro area is projected to grow from 157,800 to 161,900 jobs, or 2.6 percent, and the New Orleans area from 533,900 to 544,900, or 2.1 percent, over two years. The New Orleans' driver is about $12.6 billion in construction spending. Lafayette's growth is related to activity in the Gulf, the report said.