La. population rises

Newly released census data show more people continue to move into Louisiana than are moving out, but just barely.

Although Louisiana’s population grew by 27,127 people from July 2011 to July this year, only 5,498 of those people are in the state because of net migration, which is defined as the number of people who moved to Louisiana minus the number who left, according to recent census population estimates.

The state’s population stood at 4,601,893 as of July, up from 4,574,766 the same month a year earlier. Most of the population gain was described as a “natural increase,” a number arrived at by subtracting the number of deaths in the state from the number of births.

The net migration figure of 5,498 people is due to the effect of international migration — people moving to Louisiana from other countries, according to the census figures.

The figures show an international migration to Louisiana of 6,741, which was offset by a negative domestic migration of minus 1,243 people. The latter, negative number is the difference between the number of Louisiana residents who moved out compared with the number of people from other states who moved to Louisiana.

Gov. Bobby Jindal said the recent census data on population growth are positive and reflect the state’s continued economic development strides and his administration’s work in job creation.

“The bottom line is that for the past five years in a row, more people have been moving into Louisiana than moving out,” Jindal said in an email statement.

“In fact, during the last four years, over 20,000 more people moved into Louisiana from Texas, Mississippi and other states than moved out of Louisiana to other U.S. states. This is in stark contrast to the 15-year period from 1990 to 2005, when Louisiana experienced net domestic outmigration of more than 7,500 people every single year.”

Stephen Moret, the state secretary of Economic Development, said the negative domestic migration from 2011 to 2012 can be attributed to the slowing of natural gas production at the Haynesville Shale as well as U.S. Navy cutbacks on fleet production forcing job losses at New Orleans area shipyards such as Avondale.

Moret said there was a two-thirds drop in Haynesville Shale activity because of a glut of gas that drove down natural gas prices between 2011 and 2012.

Independent political analyst and frequent Jindal critic Elliot Stonecipher said he thinks the negative domestic migration number is another signal that Louisiana’s “brain drain” of younger, educated residents is still under way and has been occurring for 30 years or so.

“The main thing I take away from the numbers is the political faction of the Jindal administration continues to mislead the public in saying outmigration is over,” Stonecipher said Wednesday.

Stonecipher has said for a long time that Louisiana could keep young, educated residents from moving to other states if public policy changed and the state’s income tax were abolished.

Stonecipher also said he thinks the increase in international immigrants over the year might be an uptick in “young, mobile, probably Latino men” who are in Louisiana illegally.

When asked about the face of Louisiana’s international migration from 2011 to 2012, Moret said the issue hadn’t been studied closely but that a number of engineers and university professors come to the state from foreign countries each year to practice their trades.

Moret said the Jindal administration is very positive about the state’s near-term economy because of new job opportunities created by plants and other industrial facilities, including an iron plant in St. James Parish, that will be opening soon.

“The trend is positive, and next year will be big,” Moret said.

“People are moving here because there are job opportunities. Louisiana’s unemployment rate recently dropped to 5.8 percent, a 0.8 percent drop that was the best in the country,” Jindal said in his written statement.

Jindal also said in the statement that 43,000 private sector jobs were added in November, which continues a 27-month streak of job gains in the private sector.

“More people continue to move here than move out because our economy is outperforming the South and the nation, but our work isn’t done yet. We won’t be satisfied until all of our sons and daughters can pursue their dreams in Louisiana,” Jindal said in the written statement.