La. cities have mixed economic growth numbers

N.O. 9th best in U.S.; BR above average

A new report that measured economic growth in U.S. cities for 2012 found that New Orleans was one of the country’s 10 biggest gainers, Baton Rouge increased more than the national average and Lafayette had one of the biggest drops in the country.

The report, released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, measured the gross domestic product, or the value of all goods and services produced in a metropolitan area, during 2012.

Nationwide, real GDP was up 2.5 percent in 2012 in the 381 metro areas surveyed. That’s up from the 1.7 percent increase in 2011.

Four of the eight Louisiana metros in the survey saw their GDP go up in 2012, while the rest reported decreases. All of the cities in Louisiana that saw increases in GDP in 2012 were rebounding from drops in 2011.

Nationally, real GDP was up in 305 of the 381 cities in the report.

NEW ORLEANS: New Orleans was the biggest gainer in Louisiana, posting a 7.6 percent increase in metro GDP during 2012. That was the ninth-largest increase in the nation. The Crescent City GDP increased from $64.0 billion in 2011 to almost $68.9 billion as measured in 2005 dollars.

New Orleans’ GDP was boosted by gains in natural resources and mining. The BEA numbers do not provide estimates of how much the information industry and transportation and utilities increased, citing a policy not to disclose confidential information. In recent years, New Orleans has seen an increase in information-related companies.

Walter J. Lane, chairman of the University of New Orleans’ economics department, said New Orleans has been experiencing “slow but steady growth,” but the numbers he has seen haven’t been as good as the BEA figures.

“Our job numbers have been slowly growing and that’s the most important number,” he said.

BATON ROUGE: The capital city’s metro GDP rose by 2.9 percent in 2012, going from $36 billion in 2011 to $37 billion. That put Baton Rouge’s growth at 98th among U.S. cities.

Baton Rouge’s ranking was affected by cuts in government, which led to a 0.3 percentage point drop in GDP. But the numbers were boosted by improving performances in natural resources and mining and construction. The BEA numbers didn’t provide local estimates for durable and nondurable goods manufacturing and information — fields that probably also boosted the local performance.

LAFAYETTE & SHREVEPORT: The Lafayette GDP fell 8.1 percent to nearly $22.0 billion after topping $23.9 billion in 2011. The Acadiana area had the second-biggest drop in the nation. Only Shreveport-Bossier, which had an 11.1 percent drop from $20.2 billion in 2011 to nearly $18 billion, had a sharper decline in the GDP rate in 2012.

A drop in crude oil and natural gas prices during 2012 may have been a factor in the drop in GDP in Lafayette and Shreveport. Lafayette has been boosted by activity in the offshore oil industry, while Shreveport has benefitted from natural gas drilling in the Haynesville Shale, but that activity has slowed because of low natural gas prices. The BEA numbers do not provide an estimate on how much the natural resource and mining industry changed in either city.

“Oil and gas is so important to Louisiana,” Lane said. “There’s been a real boom and bust in Haynesville.”

MONROE & LAKE CHARLES: The other two cities to report gains in GDP were Monroe, up 3 percent from $5.68 billion to $5.85 billion, and Lake Charles, which was up 2.5 percent from $10.1 billion to $10.3 billion.

HOUMA-THIBODAUX: It was the only Louisiana metro to report drops in GDP two years in a row. The city was down 0.7 percent to nearly $9.95 billion in 2012, after a 1.3 percent drop in 2011 that brought it to slightly more than $10 billion.

ALEXANDRIA: The central Louisiana city had a 0.5 percent drop in GDP, coming in at $4.76 billion in 2012. It had a GDP of $4.78 billion in 2011.