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Study shows New Orleans growth since Katrina

19th August 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Michael Patrick Welch
Contributing Writer

According to two recent studies of New Orleans’ health economic and otherwise, the city is currently riding high—better than the rest of the country, in many areas.

The study, “New Orleans Index at Eight: Measuring Greater New Orleans’ Progress Toward Prosperity,” released recently by New Orleans Community Data Center, identifies areas in which the 10-parish metropolitan region of New Orleans has, since Katrina, joined the economic ranks of “aspirational metros” such as Nashville, Raleigh, and Austin. The following quotes directly from the study.

“The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center has for 15 years attempted to bring reliable, thoroughly researched data to conversations. The Data Center has played a critical role in assessing the strength of the New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana economy since the onset of the Great Recession. The Data Center is also recognized across the country for expertise in New Orleans demographics, disaster recovery indicators, and actionable data visualization.”

Economic Growth

In general, the study shows New Orleans metro has received high rankings for its economic performance during the Great Recession. According to the study, the recession took hold locally in 2008 (nationally in 2007), and the metro lost only 1 percent of its jobs before rebounding. By 2012, the New Orleans metro had fully recovered, and employment levels surpassed the 2008 peak by one-percent while the nation remained three-percent behind its pre-recession employment level. Productivity in the New Orleans metro was 14 percent higher than the U.S. in 2011. The New Orleans metro’s rate of business startups is 56 percent higher than the national average, and 33 percent higher than the aspirational metros. However, the New Orleans metro average wage declined 1 percent from 2006 to 2011 such that the metro average wage of $47,295 is now six percent lower than the U.S. average.

Poverty and Jail

The city’s 2011 poverty rate of 29 percent hasn’t changed significantly since 1999, states the report, while poverty in suburban parishes and the U.S. has risen. The suburban parishes are now home to the majority of the poor in the New Orleans metro area. The share of city households that are middle and upper class has increased slightly since 1999 to 46 percent, but a disproportionate share of households remains low income.

In Orleans Parish, the jail incarceration rate has decreased significantly post-Katrina from 1,251 per 100,000 population in 2004 to 912 per 100,000 in 2011, but is still significantly higher than the rest of the New Orleans metro and nearly four times the national rate.

Minority Concerns

With 27 percent of all businesses being minority-owned in 2007, the New Orleans metro had, according to the study, a larger share of minority-owned businesses relative to its minority population than the nation as a whole. Yet, at a steady two percent of all receipts, the returns to these businesses have consistently fallen below the national average.

While employment rates across the U.S. and comparison metros have fallen for white men and Black men since 1980s, more than half (53 percent) of working age Black men were employed in 2011 compared to 61 percent of Black men in aspirational metros and 75 percent of white men locally. African-American households in the N.O. metro earned 50 percent less than white households in 2011 compared to a national disparity of only 40 percent.

The study’s other categories include Public Transit use by workers, which has increased from 5.3 percent in 2006 to 7.8 percent in 2011, a rate higher than the nation but still significantly lower than pre-Katrina. Miles of new bikeways in New Orleans have increased over 400 percent from 10.7 miles in 2004 to 56.2 miles in 2012.

From 1990 to 2010, life expectancy in the New Orleans metro increased from 72.1 years to 76.4 years, improving at a faster rate than the nation and narrowing the gap between the U.S. and metro.

The Index also identifies areas where New Orleans’ metro area falls short of the aspirational metros, particularly in adult educational attainment and employment rates for large segments of the population. Violent and property crime rates in the city of New Orleans are lower than pre-Katrina but still significantly higher than the national average.

The share of public school students who attend “academically satisfactory” schools has increased post-Katrina. However, in fall 2012, only 11 percent and 21 percent of students in St. John and Jefferson parish, respectively, attended sch­ools that earned an “A” or “B” based on their most recent school performance score.

Since 2004, the share of renters in the city of New Orleans paying unaffordable housing costs has spiked from 43 percent to 54 percent. Post-Katrina, the number of “unhealthy” air quality days in the New Orleans metro is higher than in the Houston metro, the latter of which has made considerable improvements in air quality.

Another Study

According to the aforementioned metro study, the construction industry had more jobs in 2011 than pre-Katrina, but all other industries had fewer jobs.

But the New Orleans Business Alliance also recently crunched the numbers on data released earlier this summer by the Bureau of Labor to determine job growth and performance strictly within Orleans Parish. According to this separate study, for the third consecutive year New Orleans outperformed the region, state, and nation in private-sector job growth. In 2012, New Orleans (Orleans Parish) employment grew by 3.1-percent, compared to a regional growth rate of 1.6-percent, 2-percent at the state level, and a national rate of 2.2-percent. In absolute terms, this study shows the city adding 4,373 jobs, 60-percent of the region’s 7,300 net new jobs created over the same period.

The Business Alliance’s study determined that 2012 was the first year in which Digital Media boasted more New Orleans jobs than the oil industry. Specific sectors shows dynamic growth in the Creative Digital Media, which grew by 26-percent from 2011 to 2012 and now totals over 5,000 jobs. Jobs, which pay on average $57,800, over 20-percent more than the average salary of a private-sector worker.

While the computer programming sub-cluster reached an all-time employment high in 2012 of 1,297 jobs, representing a growth of nearly 10 percent over 2011, the vast majority of the gains in Creative Digital Media came from the film and video production sub-cluster, which experienced an almost doubling of employment from 2011 to 2012, reaching an all-time high of 2,082 jobs. Postproduction jobs are up as well, growing by 27-percent to 200. It is important to note that employment in the film and video sub-clusters fluctuates more than most clusters year-to-year depending on the number and size of film and television productions in the city. As we see more and more businesses in this cluster set up offices in the city, we expect to see more consistent employment growth in Creative Digital Media.

This article originally published in the August 19, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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