La. job growth outpaces national rate in forecast

Louisiana’s employment growth rate is expected to be 57 percent higher than the national rate through 2015, according to projections released Tuesday by the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

Through 2022, the state’s employment growth rate is expected to remain 20 percent higher than the national rate, according to Raj Jindal, who is the commission’s information technology director and mother of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

“Louisiana has kept up,” said Raj Jindal, a longtime employee of the commission.

“Louisiana will have jobs available for everyone who’s willing to get the education and training that employers need in their workforce,” Curt Eysink, the commission’s executive director, said after release of the forecasts.

Added Eysink: “What these numbers tell me is that we’re going to have really good growth for years to come. We have a wealth of opportunity and a diversity of opportunity. This growth is in different sectors, and we need people at every skill level.”

Commission analysts worked with LSU’s Division of Economic Development to produce the projections.

The state’s two basic forecasts, which were adopted Tuesday by the Workforce Investment Council, are that Louisiana’s jobholders will have grown from 2.0 million in 2012 to 2.1 million for 2015.

That’s an annual rate of 1.7 percent for Louisiana — better than the national forecast of 1.08 percent for the same period.

During the 10-year period ending in 2022, Raj Jindal reported, the state’s employed are expected to grow to 2.26 million. That’s a projected annual rate of growth of 1.3 percent, significantly higher than the nation’s continuing forecast of 1.08 percent.

Workforce projections for the Baton Rouge and New Orleans regions also are positive through 2015 and 2022.

Jobholders in Baton Rouge totaled 445,150 in 2012, Jindal reported. They are expected to increase to 473,980 by the end of 2015 and 513,760 by the end of 2022.

That’s a short-term annual growth rate of 2.2 percent, and a long-term growth rate of 1.5 percent.

Employed people in the New Orleans region totaled 562,360 by the end of 2012. Their ranks are expected to grow to 585,520 by the end of 2015, an annual rate of 1.4 percent, and 620,950 in 2022, an annual rate of 1.0 percent.

Lake Charles topped Baton Rouge, New Orleans and the remainder of Louisiana’s eight regions with an annual job growth rate of 5.7 percent through 2015 and a rate of 1.8 percent through 2022. By 2022, that southwest area’s jobholders are expected to increase to 142,700 — an increase of 21,310 from the 2012 total.

Projected job growth for the Lafayette area is expected to be 1.7 percent annually through 2015 and 1.3 percent through 2022, when employment is forecast to reach 330,170.

Job growth forecasts for other metropolitan areas are: Monroe, 1.2 percent annually through 2015, 1.0 percent annually through 2022; Shreveport, 0.6 percent annually through 2015, 1.2 percent annually through 2022; Alexandria, 0.3 percent through 2015, 1.1 percent through 2022.

Houma’s forecast for rate of growth was second only to that of Lake Charles.

As a center for offshore jobs, the Houma area’s employment total was expected to increase 2.5 percent annually to 112,920 from 2012 until the end of 2015.

By the end of 2022, after a decade of annual increases of 1.7 percent, Houma’s jobholders are expected to total 122,840.

“This is an incredible boom,” said Loren C. Scott, a retired LSU economics professor who now heads the consulting firm of Loren Scott Associates. “Houma is really rocking and rolling.”

There were 33 offshore drilling rigs off Louisiana’s coast prior to the tragic explosion that killed 11 men aboard the Deepwater Horizon in April 2010, Scott noted. The number of deepwater rigs soon dropped to 11, he added.

“It (the number of offshore drilling rigs) is now about 38, and is expected to be about 60 sometime between 2015 and 2017,” Scott said.

“There are reasons for this offshore growth,” Scott added. “There are huge finds out there, what the industry calls ‘elephant’ finds. And two years ago, Argentina nationalized offshore wells. One place that’s not going to happen is the Gulf of Mexico.”

Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lake Charles also benefit from navigable rivers with access to the Gulf and proximity to low-cost natural gas, Scott said. And coastal regions of the state are close to offshore networks of pipelines not found in Africa or other budding, foreign oil-producing areas.

Ongoing industrial development in St. James Parish will boost the number of job holders in the New Orleans metropolitan area, Scott said. Census officials added St. James to that statistical area about a year ago, he explained.

“One of the things we’ve got going for us is the chemical industry,” Scott said. Abundant natural gas enables low-cost production in south Louisiana of chemicals that can be moved relatively cheaply by barge down the Mississippi River or other waterways, he added.