"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."
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, surprised few in the Hub City Wednesday afternoon when he made (semi) official what most of us have known for months: He is running to replace Joey Durel as city-parish president.
Louisiana's first black Republican state senator since Reconstruction — who was a Republican before he was a Democrat before he was a Republican again — is accusing Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of using the black community for votes and providing nothing in return.
LSU's governing board has backed new hospital privatization contracts that give hospital managers greater ease to leave the deal and fewer restrictions about must-have services.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students' college costs.
Coton de tulear joins Westminster; Paypal splitting from Ebay; first US Ebola diagnosis and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 1, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stage 4 vet takes on cancer and reminds us all what it really means to get involved.
Is Mary fading as Vitter solidifies his lock on the fourth floor?
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has renegotiated contracts for six LSU hospital privatization deals, hoping to reach a compromise with federal health officials that will keep Medicaid dollars flowing to the privatized patient services.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.
The use of $60 million in Louisiana's public school financing formula to pay for nearly three dozen charter schools violates the state constitution, a statewide teachers' union claimed Monday in a lawsuit.
February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
There was a time when United Ballot had a political stranglehold so tight on Lafayette’s black community it was nearly unbreakable, but that grip might be loosening.
The race for Lafayette city marshal may not be the most exciting of this year’s local political contests, but it could prove the most historic.
With the DA’s race too close to call and negative media coverage of Mike Harson on the ebb, will challenger Keith Stutes take the gloves off?
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.
Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats are not expected to follow suit.
“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.