Louisiana’s economy is performing well compared to the rest of the nation, according to the Louisiana Economic Development office, and the trend is expected to continue for the next few years.
A document recently released by LED explained that since 2008, Louisiana has continuously had an unemployment rate well below the national average. Employment grew .8 percent while the U.S. lost 3.1 percent of its jobs, the population grew 26 percent faster than the U.S. average, and new companies have invested in various parts of the state.
“Louisiana wasn’t immune from the national recession,” said LED secretary Stephen Moret in an email. “However, we went into the recession later than other states, we experienced smaller job losses than other states and we came out of the recession earlier than other states.”
Moret said Louisiana will continue this economic growth because of the progress made in the past five years, as well as an effort by LED to continue to attract business to the state.
“Since 2008, we’ve implemented policy reforms that improved Louisiana’s business climate and helped enable our state to economically outperform the South, and U.S. Tax reform is the next big step to position Louisiana for a brighter economic future,” he said.
Loren C. Scott, president of Loren C. Scott and Associates Inc. and former chairman of the University economics department, said Louisiana’s ability to attract new industry is going to keep the economy growing.
“The next couple of years are going to be very good ones for the state,” he said. “We’re going to have the good problem of trying to find enough construction workers.”
More people are moving into Louisiana rather than leaving, Moret said, and the state experienced its fifth consecutive year of population growth.
“The in-migration gains are largely the result of our state’s economic performance during that time period,” he said. “During the last four years alone, over 20,000 more people moved into Louisiana from other states than moved out of Louisiana to other U.S. states.”
According to Moret, companies such as General Electric, CenturyLink, ConAgra Foods, Albemarle and many others have set up shop in Louisiana or expanded current facilities to create thousands of jobs across the state.
Moret said three major factors contributed to the past economic growth over the past five years: Louisiana had a low proportion of financial services and durable goods manufacturing, a sector that was hit hard nationally during the recession, a surge in natural gas expansion and an aggressive economic development effort to gain new business.
LED created FastStart in 2008, which is a workforce training program to help companies in the state. Moret said FastStart is the top-ranked program of its kind in the country.
“FastStart has been one of the most powerful economic development tools we have created because it has enabled us to transform a traditional, perceived weakness of Louisiana into one of our top selling points for new business investment,” Moret said.
Louisiana ranks higher in every national business climate ranking than the state did before 2008, Moret said. A mix of policy reforms, business development projects and an aggressive attempt by LED to market these reforms and projects to business executives helped secure an improvement in the standings.
“I’ve been watching the state for 40 years, and I’ve never seen the Department of Economic Development this strong in terms of work ethic, skilled people and smart people that are working there right now,” Scott said.