Louisiana, led by oil and gas industry, predicted to surpass the 2 million job mark by 2015

10 15, 2014 by The Times-Picayune

While much of the country, over the past few years, has struggled to recover from the Great Recession, Louisiana's ongoing surge in the oil and gas industry has kept its economy ahead of the national curve. The sector has driven more than $103 billion in industrial projects that are either under construction, completed or slated to start soon, prompting record job growth.

Next year, it seems, will be no different. In a near repeat of last year's economic projections, Louisiana, for the first time in state history, is expected to surpass 2 million overall jobs in 2015, according to economists Loren Scott and James Richardson.

Scott released the figures at the Baton Rouge Business Report's annual Top 100 Luncheon at the Crowne Plaza hotel on Wednesday (Oct. 15).

Louisiana's Economic Outlook projects the state to add 34,100 jobs in 2015 and another 32,600 in 2016. Of the state's eight metro areas, Scott and Richardson's report said Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles and Houma -- largely due to the heavy economic influence of the petrochemical industry --will be the big winners. That said, robust growth will not be seen in all parts of the state.

"It would be nice if this vigorous growth was expected to be spread evenly across the state," the 2015-2016 report states. "If a line was drawn along I-10 straight across the state, the really dynamic growth will be experienced on and beneath that line. Barring some special announcements soon, expansion in the central and northern regions of Louisiana will be modest at best."

Baton Rouge is expected to be the second fastest growing area in Louisiana through 2016, adding 19,600 new jobs, or 2.4 percent growth, a reflection of the $16 billion in new industrial announcements. New Orleans is projected to add 17,300 jobs, a 1.6 percent growth rate, through 2016.

Most eye-catching is what's the report said will happen in Lake Charles, predicted to experience a two-year growth rate of 12 percent. Sparked by $81.7 billion in industrial project announcements, the metro area, over the next two years, is expected to add 12,000 jobs.

Lafayette to be the fourth fastest-growing area, adding 5,700 jobs, up 1.7 percent over the two-year window, driven mostly by investment from oil field service firms such as Halliburton, Danos, Frank's International and National Oilwell Varco.

The economists say Houma tends to feed off the surging offshore drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico. It's considered the third fastest-growing area, adding 2.3 percent annually or 4,500 jobs by 2016. Much of the region's success was because of the jobs coming from the half a billion dollars in expansions from Port Fourchon, and fabricator Gulf Island and Danos' separate investments.

Shreveport is expected to add 2,700 jobs through 2016, ranking the region 6th in the state, while Monroe will boost its employment growth by 1 percent, adding 1,000 jobs. And after enduring six straight years of job losses, Alexandria is expected to rebound, adding 700 jobs, or 1.1 percent growth, through 2016.