Our Views: Our lag in growth

If announced projects for industrial and petrochemical manufacturing are included, Louisiana’s economy is a superstar. But announced doesn’t mean up-and-running, so while our state has shown growth in economic output, it’s not yet seeing the full benefit from a growing industrial sector.

At a growth rate of 1.3 percent, the state lagged behind neighboring states and the nation in 2013, according to the statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

That’s below the national average of 1.8 percent and 34th among the 50 states — although there’s a caveat in such statistics: They can change as data is refined. The 2012 growth rate for Louisiana was revised to 2.1 percent from an earlier estimate of 1.5 percent.

The aforesaid multibillion-dollar projects? Don’t they count?

“I think it’s on the cusp,” said Kyle Hillman, an economist who tracks Louisiana’s economy for Moody’s Analytics.

“I think it’s not quite there yet,” he told The Associated Press.

Further, the volatile business of oil and gas extraction makes the data volatile as well.

The fracking boom in north Louisiana was a boom — vast amounts of new drilling from Haynesville shale gas production. But even as gas prices rose a bit, the production of shale wells tends to start out high and gradually diminish.

We’re in a bit of a trough after Haynesville, although there are signs that fracking wells may blossom in the Tuscaloosa Shale across central Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi.

Another factor: As about 8,000 workers left government payrolls, that has an impact on the economic data; many of those workers were employed by the old charity hospitals that Gov. Bobby Jindal has closed or leased to private operators. State officials say most of those workers have been rehired, but the newest BEA data shows a decline in economic activity from government and health care sectors.

Through 2022, the state’s employment growth rate is expected to remain 20 percent higher than the national rate, according to projections by Raj Jindal, the Workforce Commission’s information technology director. That’s good news for her son, who happens to be the governor of Louisiana.

In the BEA analysis for 2013, Louisiana was nevertheless behind the growth rates of Texas at 3.7 percent, Arkansas at 2.4 percent and Mississippi at 1.6 percent. That last one hurts. We are not the slowest growing state by any means — Alaska actually declined because of a drop in oil and gas activity — but we want to be competitive with our peers in the Delta South.

Obviously, one snapshot does not define the economy, but there is reason to believe that the coming years are going to be more positive ones for Louisiana’s economy. We should make the most of them.