"In the case of New Orleans, the model we used was the housing situation," says Scott. "The initial Red Cross estimate of houses destroyed was 267,000, and 75 percent of them are in New Orleans. So we argue that the strength and speed of the recovery will be limited by the availability of housing. If someone has eight restaurants, even if they open them back up again right now, they can't staff them because the workers don't have housing."
The housing formula generates sobering statistics on the post-Katrina economic outlook for the state. Even as Scott and his team of economists added 20,000-30,000 jobs for relief workers living in or commuting to New Orleans to their data, they arrived at a total of 337,000 jobs ' a number that effectively wipes out four decades of growth and puts the Crescent City at its 1963 employment levels.
Scott's estimates were also informed by personal experience. He has a townhouse in Old Metairie that took on more than 4 feet of water and has been back to the city numerous times to try and sort out insurance issues. And like so many other Louisiana residents, he has a hard time seeing a clear picture of the timetable for rebuilding efforts. "There's a limit on flood insurance, there's a shortage of contractors, problems with mold remediation â?¦ so when you look at the total number of homes damaged, it boggles the mind. Some people have asked what the margin of error is for this forecast, and we tried to hold our hands apart as far as we could. There's just so much uncertainty."
Even the staggering mid-80s Louisiana recession caused by the oil industry's downturn doesn't compare to Katrina's damage to the economy. "The size and geographic impact are the two main differences," says Scott. "The [oil] recession occurred over a six-year period, and we lost 9 percent of our jobs ' about 148,000 in the state. That's a huge hit, and it hit virtually every metro area in the state. Now we've lost twice as many jobs in about two months, but it's been like a rifle shot aimed directly at New Orleans."
With so much of the damage concentrated in the New Orleans region, Scott emphatically warns of a false sense of economic security in areas such as Baton Rouge, Acadiana and north Louisiana, which mostly emerged physically unscathed from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "We're already doing surveys in Baton Rouge on how much business there relies on New Orleans, and it's a lot," he says. Suppliers from multiple industries have lost their New Orleans customer base, and the flip side is also true; restaurateurs in particular have scrambled to try and replace goods they bought from New Orleans. The overall ripple effect is significant. (Scott, for example, had four speaking engagements in New Orleans cancelled, and the status of his consulting contract with the city of Kenner is up in the air.)
While the metro New Orleans area staggers to get back on its feet, Scott says displaced residents and businesses will spur economic growth in other regions of the state. He estimates that Baton Rouge will be able to accommodate up to 50,000 new residents and 23,000 jobs, making the capital city the state's largest metropolitan area in 2006. Retail operations in Houma should also increase. Statewide, the already-booming construction industry will make further gains. And oil industry infrastructure repairs will bring increased employment in the Lafayette region.
"[Lafayette] has the servicing firms that are going to be charged with repairing structures in the Gulf of Mexico," he says. "As a result, we bumped up Lafayette by 4,000 jobs in 2006. It's going to take a minimum of one year to repair some of these pipelines and platforms. The Chevron Typhoon, a billion dollar facility, has been inverted. So if you're a fisherman, imagine a $1 billion bobber turned upside down."
While those repairs are under way, Scott says New Orleans' main economic engines ' the petrochemical industry, tourism, shipbuilding and the port system ' can only recover as fast as the housing situation in New Orleans improves. "Bollinger and Avondale ship yards and Lockheed Martin will come back, but they're struggling because they're labor-intensive and workers need places to live.
"The most problematic area is tourism," he adds. "Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras will come back at a smaller level to start, but the biggest problem is convention business. In the past, if you were a convention planner looking at dates between June and November [during hurricane season], there was always a little red flag. Now it's a big red flag."
Ultimately, Scott says federal relief money is the biggest question mark ' and he's discouraged by recent developments. "There are some recent proposals like the Louisiana Recovery Act, where the federal government will buy property and people will then get some of their wealth back. For some people, injection of federal money is going to be critical, because at least part of their wealth is built up in their homes. And we have to do something about the levee system. If you do want to rebuild, who's going to loan you money in an area that's been flooded when the levee system hasn't been fixed? But the unnerving thing is to watch the change [at the federal level] since we've gotten further and further away from the hurricane. The drop in sympathy level is palpable."
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 23, 2014:
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”