Capital Region predicted two-year job growth behind only Lake Charles

    The Capital Region is poised to be the second-fastest growing metro area in the state over the next two years, trailing only Lake Charles—the fastest-growing metro area in the country—according to economist Loren Scott, who delivered his annual Louisiana Economic Outlook at Business Report’s Top 100 Luncheon today.

    Following a brief lull in job growth, renewed activity in the Baton Rouge-area industrial construction sector is expected to boost the local economy by 6,000 projected new jobs in 2019 (+1.5%) and another 8,100 in 2020 (+1.9%).

    Louisiana as a whole is poised to add 23,400 jobs (+1.2%) in 2019 and an even better 36,100 jobs (+1.8%) in 2020, meaning the state should surpass two million jobs on an annual basis for the first time in its history next year.

    “Louisiana will add nearly 60,000 jobs,” Scott said. “That’s not quite as fast as the national economy because of the oil patch, but it will see some recovery in 2020.”

    Oil prices are expected to gradually rise from $65 a barrel this year to $80 by 2020, Scott says. Meanwhile, natural gas prices will fall slightly, continuing to fuel a “remarkable industrial boom” in Louisiana.

    Six major projects under construction in the nine-parish Baton Rouge area will drive the majority of the job growth, including Sintech’s $1.4 billion ethane cracker project in Plaquemine, Shell’s $717 million alpha olefins plant in Geismar, Oxychem’s $145 million expansion in Geismar and BASF’s $150 million expansion in Ascension Parish.

    Of approximately $18.9 billion worth of industrial projects announced in the Capital Region since 2012, Scott says $15.8 billion have been completed or are underway and another $3.1 billion of potential investments are possible in the coming years.

    One potential project on the table is ExxonMobil’s polypropylene expansion, worth up to $1 billion, at the Baton Rouge polyolefins plant. Exxon has applied for an Industrial Tax Exemption for the potential project, which has been approved by state and the school board and awaits approval from the Metro Council and sheriff.

    Rejecting Exxon’s ITEP request would be “one way to kick ourselves in the behind,” Scott says.

    Economic outlooks for Louisiana’s other metro areas are:

    • Lake Charles: expected to add 4,000 jobs (+3.3%) in 2019 and 5,300 (+4.3%) in 2020.
    • New Orleans: projected to add 6,500 jobs (+1.1%) in 2019 and 9,100 (+1.6%) in 2020.  
    • Lafayette: expected to add 1,400 new jobs (+0.7%) in 2019 and 4,900 jobs (+2.4%) in 2020.
    • Houma: expected to add 700 new jobs (+0.8%) in 2019 and 2,100 jobs (+2.4%) in 2020.
    • Shreveport-Bossier: projected to add 600 jobs each year (+0.3%) over the next two years.
    • Monroe: projected to add 400 new jobs (+0.5%) in 2019 and 200 (+0.3%) in 2020.
    • Alexandria: job growth is expected to remain flat in 2019 while adding 500 new jobs (+0.8%) in 2020.
    • Hammond: projected to add 800 jobs (+1.7%) each year over the next two years.
    • 29 rural parishes: projected 2,500 new jobs (+1.1%) in 2019 and 4,500 jobs (+2%) in 2020.

    The Top 100 Luncheon wrapped up the Louisiana Business Symposium, which kicked off this morning at the Crowne Plaza Executive Center with the Best Places to Work Breakfast, an annual event honoring dozens of companies in the Capital Region. This year’s winners are featured in the issue of Business Report that hits newsstands today.

    As the keynote speaker of this morning’s event, Best Companies Group President Peter Burke discussed key traits that the best companies foster with employees, such as engagement, trust and honest feedback.

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