Louisiana economy

Oil refinery along Mississippi river in New Orleans - Shutterstock

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis has revised its assessment of Louisiana’s economy in the first quarter of this year, saying the state’s gross domestic product didn’t grow after initially saying its growth led the southeast.

Initial BEA estimates for the first quarter were released this summer. That report indicated Louisiana’s GDP grew 3.8 percent, which exceeded the national average of 3.1 percent and was the 10th-biggest increase reported for any state.

But a more recent BEA report revises the previous estimate for the first quarter down to zero. The newer report also says Louisiana grew 1.7 percent in the second quarter, which ranked 29th nationally.

The BEA estimates Louisiana grew 2.6 percent over the course of 2018, compared to a national average of 2.9 percent.

Citing the initial first quarter report, Gov. John Bel Edwards has boasted that Louisiana's economy has flourished during his administration. Critics have said Edwards was overstating the strength of the state's economy.

The fiscally conservative Pelican Institute pointed to the revised first quarter numbers as evidence that Louisiana's economy hasn't flourished.

"Averaging out the first two quarters of economic growth in 2019, Louisiana now ranks a paltry 42nd overall in terms of economic growth," the institute said in a blog post. "This places Louisiana firmly last among southeastern states and yet again in the bottom 10 of a ranking in which Louisiana would prefer to be in the top 10."

The institute said two lessons can be learned from the revised report.

"Foremost, buying into economic data from only one quarterly report is likely to lead you astray," it wrote. "Due to how economic data is collected, its important to take a much longer-term view of any economy. Secondly, the long-term view of the Louisiana economy is not good."

Edwards interpreted the revised numbers differently.

“Louisiana continues to see growth in its gross domestic product, which is at a record high level and growing faster than many other states," he said in a statement. "We’ve made positive strides in growing our economy through job creation. Right now, our unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in more than a decade, people are taking home more money in their paychecks and our GDP has hit historic levels for our state."

Louisiana was not the only state to have its first-quarter growth estimate revised down by the BEA. For example, the bureau initially reported that West Virginia’s GDP grew 5.2 percent in the first quarter of 2019, more than any other state, while it now reports that state’s economy actually shrank by 2.2 percent.

“Gross domestic product” refers to the monetary value of all goods and services produced in a state or country in a given year.

According to a paper available at the BEA’s website, the bureau revises its estimates “to improve the accuracy of the estimates and to provide a more detailed picture of the economy by incorporating the most complete and reli­able source data available at a given time.”

“Revisions are not errors,” the paper says. “Revisions are mainly driven by the incorporation of more complete and revised source data, and the release of the revised estimates is determined by the availability of these data.”

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