Economic growth spurs local optimism

Optimism grows as jobless claims decline

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As the economy shows signs of speeding up that is increasing local optimism about jobs and sectors like tourism.

Michael Hecht is President and CEO of GNO Inc., an economic development organization.

“You’re definitely starting to see some really positive signs,” said Hecht.

Dr. Walter Lane is a University of New Orleans economist.

“The U.S. economy has been growing fast, when an economy grows fast it creates jobs, so we’re seeing unemployment claims going down, total employment going up but it’s still well below what it was pre-COVID but we’re moving in the right direction,” said Lane.

The U.S. Labor Department says the number of people who sought unemployment benefits last week fell to 684,000, which is a drop from 781,000 the week before and is the first time that weekly applications for jobless benefits have fallen below 700,000 since March 2020.

And Louisiana is not left out in terms of the declining jobless claims.

Jobless claims in the state fell to 6,909 from 7,195 according to U.S. Labor Department statistics.

And the agency’s data says Louisiana’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate is 7.6 percent. In December of 2020, it was 7.9 percent.

Hecht also spoke about the unemployment rate for seven parishes in the Greater New Orleans area.

“Our unemployment rate is at around 8.7 percent which is higher than it was pre-COVID but it’s way down than the over 20 percent that we were at its worst. And if you start looking at the individual sectors that were hardest hit, the airport had one of its busiest days in a year recently, so air traffic and tourism are beginning to come back,” he said.

The jobless rate for the country is 6.2 percent so Dr. Lane says Louisiana is lagging because its rate is higher than that for the U.S.

“Some sectors are growing and that’s one of the reasons Louisiana is so much higher, our leisure and hospitality has been the worst-hit sector and that’s a bigger part of our economy than it is of most,” said Lane.

Hecht agrees some areas of the state’s economy are faring better than others.

“The oil industry and prices are now above $60 there, so they’re starting to come back and there’s a lot of promise for other industries like technology and logistics and healthcare coming out of COVID that we’re pretty bullish about,” said Hecht.

And Hecht says tourists have not lost their appetite for New Orleans, so he is optimistic about a broader economic rebound.

“I think the overall prognosis is very good, for a couple of reasons, one there’s just pent-up demand, everything that New Orleans offers, the experience, the authenticity, the humanity is what people have been denied for a year, so I think they’re going to come back because they’re craving that experience,” Hecht stated.

And he says the money flowing from Washington to Louisiana through the COVID relief package will also help.

“There are going to be trillions of dollars of new stimulus coming into the economy and I think a lot of that will get spent here in New Orleans,” said Hecht.

But Lane says workers may not flock back to CBD office buildings.

“I think a lot of those people aren’t going to be going back to downtown every day and that’s going to affect New Orleans,” he said.

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