Jobs grew in N.O. area  in 2012

A recent UNO study found that the metro New Orleans area economy grew modestly during the first three quarters of 2012, with major job losses being offset by new jobs in other industries.

According to the latest UNO Metropolitan Report, compiled by the university’s Division of Business and Economic Research, total employment in the metro area grew 0.4 percent, while there were substantial job losses reported in industries such as construction, manufacturing and retail trade.

Those losses, however, were offset by employment gains in the areas of leisure and hospitality, educational services, and professional and business services.

The UNO study found that the local unemployment rate was volatile, having decreased from 7.5 percent to 6.7 percent at the end of 2011, but increasing again to 7.4 percent between the first and third quarters last year.

The metro area defined in the UNO study includes Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John and St. Tammany parishes.

While the UNO study found a local unemployment rate just above 7 percent in the third quarter, more recent federal figures show a tumble.

The U.S. Labor Department this week released statistics showing that in November, the metro New Orleans area has the second-lowest percentage of unemployment in the country at 4.7 percent. Oklahoma City has the lowest rate for large metropolitan area with 4.5 percent unemployment.

The national unemployment rate, according to the Labor Department, was at 7.8 percent. The UNO report notes that the metro area’s unemployment rate has remained below the national average since Hurricane Katrina.

A breakdown of the jobs lost in the first three quarters of 2012 included 4,000 construction jobs, 1,500 transportation equipment manufacturing jobs and 1,000 retail jobs.

Construction jobs were lost when Katrina-generated projects began to end. The loss of manufacturing jobs can be attributed to layoffs at Avondale Shipyard, which will continue as remaining workers are laid off as they complete work on two Navy ships under construction.

Offsetting those losses were 3,500 new leisure and hospitality jobs, 2,100 jobs in educational services and 1,600 jobs in business services.

Additional jobs in hospitality and leisure were generated because of an increase in the number of visitors to the New Orleans area, according to the report.

About 4.94 million visitors came to the New Orleans area in the first half of 2012, a 2 percent increase from the 4.84 million who came here during the same time in 2011.

In regard to those seeking unemployment claims, there were 36 percent more people seeking initial claims — essentially applying for unemployment — during the third quarter of 2012 compared with 2011 because of Hurricane Isaac. Continued unemployment claims decreased by 21 percent during the same time period.

The backbone of all the figures in the report is the population of the metro area.

Since Hurricane Katrina, the population has steadily increased as some people returned home, while new residents arrived.

With about 1.2 million inhabitants, the population is 88 percent of its pre-Katrina level, according to the report.

However, because of migration to the suburbs after the storm, more people now live outside of Orleans Parish. Its population is about 74 percent of what it was before the storm.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the parishes in the metro area have reached 97 percent of their pre-storm levels.