The New Orleans Job Market

The words “New Orleans” and “job market” are an oxymoron in these tough economic times.  There is always money to be made in every city, but New Orleans has been knocked down economically time and time again.  There is very little hope for economic development in this city until it can recover fully from the effects of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.  The city boasts a relatively high unemployment rate.  The city has had great success, unfortunately due to disaster, at attracting construction and rebuilding firms to its borders, but very little success attracting much else.  Even the downtown area, once a hotbed of tourism and retail sector growth, has been all but destroyed by the one-two punch of Katrina and the economic recession.

New Orleans has always had a higher than average unemployment rate.  This can be attributed to the high levels of poverty and socio-economic circumstances that many of its citizens face.  Before the recession and after Katrina, the city had a staggering 13%-15% unemployment rate.  Now its official rate is somewhere near the mid 7% range, but this is due to the fact that there are vast numbers of people no longer looking for a job or that no longer qualify for government unemployment benefits, and therefore not added to the official unemployment figures.  New Orleans’ true unemployment rate is impossible to really measure, but the 20%-25% range would not surprise many economists.

New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have been bright spots for the oil and natural gas industries in years past.  There still exists a strong mining and natural resources sector in the state, but its economic prowess is imbalanced by the staggeringly high unemployment rates in nearly every other sector.  Some businesses and individuals see New Orleans as an excellent investment opportunity for the future.  Unfortunately there are not enough people that feel this way to truly make a lasting impact on New Orleans’ economy in the short term.

Without a doubt New Orleans has suffered more than likely any other US city over the past 5 years both economically and in terms of natural disasters and lack of relief and assistance.  Three are numerous construction projects and government relief programs currently taking place in the city, but again, not enough to really even put a dent in the high unemployment numbers that still plague the New Orleans.

The city of New Orleans will likely sadly remain one of the most impoverished regions in the US.  Its natural resources and construction and building opportunities cannot make up for the high levels of poverty and Katrina-related economic devastation.  Much of the population relocated to other regions in the US directly after Hurricane Katrina, taking much of the work force with it, both skilled and unskilled.  New Orleans will be one of the last US cities to rise out of the ashes of this most recent economic recession, and unless more investment capital can be attracted, will likely never function as it did even 5 years ago.