Louisiana’s state economic development department in its new annual report touts more than 80 “project wins” totaling over $8 billion in capital investment in 2019.
Those projects are expected to create more than 4,900 direct jobs and retain more than 15,000 existing jobs at Louisiana companies, Louisiana Economic Development says.
Some of the biggest projects highlighted in the report include a $3.1 billion expansion by Lotte Chemical and Westlake Chemical in southwest Louisiana, a $469 million ExxonMobil expansion in the Capital Region, the $1.5 billion Diamond Green Diesel investment in southeast Louisiana, and the retention of CenturyLink’s headquarters in Monroe.
LED also reports growth in film industry spending, which increased from $447 million in 2018 to $538 million through the first 11 months of 2019. Another sector where LED sees significant growth potential is in cybersecurity, particularly along the “I-20 Cyber Corridor.”
“As a result of these efforts, unemployment in Louisiana reached an 11-year low in 2019,” LED’s report says. “More than two million Louisiana citizens are working again, and personal income has hit a record high of $224 billion.”
But critics say Louisiana’s economic development successes have more to do with generous tax incentives than an overall business-friendly environment, which helps to explain why Louisiana’s economic growth has not kept pace with the rest of the nation.
The state’s unemployment rate increased to 4.7 percent in November, compared to 4.5 percent in October and 4.3 percent in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in November, the BLS says.
Louisiana’s 4.7 percent unemployment rate translates to 98,712 adults without work in the state, a nearly 4,000-person increase from October and 7,000 since September, according to the fiscally conservative Pelican Institute for Public Policy.
Pelican’s commentary notes that the unemployment rate doesn’t include those who have given up looking for work or have moved out of state, though the “number of people working or looking for a job in the state measured by the civilian labor force has increased slightly over the last few months.”
“Even though the employment situation in the state is lethargic at best, it’s still positively growing, but very slowly,” said Greg Albrecht, the Louisiana Legislature’s chief economist, at the most recent meeting of the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference.