Report: Lafayette economy up

A new report that measured economic growth in U.S. cities for 2011 found that Lafayette was one of the 15 biggest gainers, while Baton Rouge and New Orleans both recorded losses.

The report, released Friday 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 2011. Nationwide, real GDP was up 1.6 percent in 2011 in the 366 metro areas surveyed. That’s down from the 3.1 percent increase in 2010.

Three of the eight Louisiana metros in the survey saw their GDP go up in 2011, while five reported decreases. Nationally, real GDP was up in 242 cities.

Lafayette was the biggest gainer in Louisiana, posting a 5.5 percent increase in metro GDP during 2011. That was the 14th-largest increase in the nation. The Acadiana GDP increased from $17.3 billion in 2010 to $18.2 billion (as measured in 2005 dollars).

Anthony J. Greco, an economics and finance professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said the city’s ranking in the federal report isn’t surprising. “The whole run of the great recession, Lafayette has fared pretty well,” said Greco, who specializes in studying local and national economic conditions. “We show up pretty well on a lot of different national lists, both from public and private sector groups.”

Lafayette’s GDP was boosted by gains in durable goods manufacturing and financial activities, according to figures from the BEA.

But the BEA numbers do not provide an estimate on how much the natural resource and mining industry grew, citing a policy not to disclose confidential information. That industry category would include much of the activity in the offshore oil industry, which has been a boost to the Lafayette economy in recent years.

“As long as the price of gas is high, that’s good news for us and the rest of the state,” Greco said.

In Baton Rouge, the metro GDP fell by 0.1 percent in 2011, going from $37.7 billion in 2010 to $37.6 billion. That drop put Baton Rouge’s growth at 251st among U.S. cities.

The city’s ranking was affected by cuts in government, which was down 0.4 percent. But Baton Rouge was boosted by an increase in construction and education and health services, both of which were up about 0.25 percent.

New Orleans saw an even bigger drop, falling by 0.8 percent, to $66.8 billion. That compares with the metro GDP of $67.3 billion year in 2010. The city was hurt by a 1.3 percent drop in nondurable goods manufacturing.

The energy industry was the deciding factor in determining a metro area’s ranking for 2011. Louisiana cities that have economies highly dependent upon oil, like Lafayette, or natural gas, like Lake Charles and Shreveport, posted GDP gains.

Shreveport was up 3.7 percent to $19.4 billion, which ranked the city 27th overall. And Lake Charles had a 2 percent gain, to come in at 97th. The Lake Charles GDP in 2011 was $12.2 billion.

However, Houma-Thibodaux bucked that trend. The Bayou Region dropped by 1.6 percent, to $9.9 billion, putting the metro area at 332rd overall. The year before, the local GDP was $10 billion.

Steve Vassallo, chief executive officer of the Terrebonne Parish Economic Development Authority, said the region was still recovering from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2011, and the federal moratorium on offshore drilling that happened as a result of the disaster. “We’re where the rigs meet the entry to the gulf,” Vassallo said. The cleanup from the massive spill also touched other key parts of the Houma-Thibodaux economy, such as seafood production and tourism, he said.

Alexandria posted a 1.1 percent drop, recording a local GDP of $4.65 billion in 2011, which put the central Louisiana city at 316th nationwide. And Monroe was down 1.5 percent to $5.66 billion, ranking the city 326th in the country.