BR, N.O. rank low in global recovery

Baton Rouge and New Orleans both ranked low in a report on how the world’s largest metro area economies are recovering from the global recession.

Baton Rouge finished 207th in the report, released Friday by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, while New Orleans was even lower, coming in at 274.

Most of the 76 U.S. cities that made the Brookings list did poorly. Brookings analyzed the number of jobs and the gross domestic product for the world’s 300 largest metro areas. Cities were selected for the list based on economic output.

Emilia Istrate, an associate fellow at Brookings and lead author of the report, said the cities that fared the best were in the developing Asia Pacific region and Latin America.

“Those areas have fully recovered, or they had no recession,” she said.

Macau, a special administrative region of China, was ranked as the metro area having the best performance from 2011-12, while Perth, Australia, was second and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was third.

Baton Rouge was listed in the category of “major recession, partial recovery,” because GDP per capita and employment both dropped for at least one year from 2007-11. The levels have not returned to their previous peaks, but they are growing. From 2011-12, the real GDP per capita in Baton Rouge was up by 0.4 percent to $47.7 billion. That 0.4 growth came after real GDP per capita fell 2.3 from 2010 to 2011, meaning Baton Rouge had the ninth-biggest change of any metro area in the world. Employment in the Capital Region increased by 0.8 percent to 379,000 jobs.

Istrate said while Baton Rouge was adding construction jobs, other sectors, such as state government and professional services, were “bleeding jobs.”

“Baton Rouge had a rather weak growth year,” she said.

Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said while its “awesome” for Baton Rouge to be included as one of the world’s major metro areas, the findings in the report aren’t new.

“China is going gangbusters, the U.S. is seeing a modest recovery and Europe is hemorrhaging,” Knapp said. “There are no huge surprises here.”

New Orleans fared worse. It was listed in the category of “partial recession” because GDP per capita is still dropping. Real GDP dropped by 1.2 percent from 2011 to nearly $71.9 billion while the number of jobs rose by 0.2 percent to 539,000.

“New Orleans is in a slightly worse situation, because there’s even less employment growth,” Istrate said.

Construction jobs in the Crescent City dropped off over the past year, as work finished up on the post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding projects that helped New Orleans fare better than the rest of the nation during the recession. The area also has been hurt by the winding down of operations at the Avondale Shipyard, which is set to close at the end of 2013.

“While the employment market in Greater New Orleans remains strong overall, we are likely beginning to see the tail end of Katrina building,” Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc., said in a statement. “Going forward, however, a boom in both energy and technology — as well as the new biomedical corridor — portends strong overall growth for many years.”

Istrate said Baton Rouge and New Orleans are both growing jobs, but not at a fast enough rate to keep up with population increases.

Most U.S. cities still haven’t come out of the recession, according to the study. Of the 76 American metros that made the list, only three are judged to have fully emerged and recovered to previous peaks: Dallas; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Pittsburgh.

The best-performing U.S. cities over the past year were a mixed bag geographically and economically. Houston, which is a petrochemical giant, was ranked 40th, while San Jose, Calif., which has an economy based on information technology, was 46th. Salt Lake City, which is based on wholesale trade like calling centers, was 56th, and Louisville, Ky., which has an economy based on health care, was 57th.

“There’s no silver bullet, not a single industry stood out for growth in the best performers year-to-year,” Istrate said.