Louisiana added a record number of jobs last year. What’s behind the uptick?

Louisiana added a record number of jobs last year. What's behind the uptick?
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A recent report found that nearly 40,000 new jobs were created last year across Louisiana.  If that sounds like a lot in a single year, it is, according to University of Louisiana at Lafayette economist Gary Wagner, who says the increase is the largest the state has seen since 1997.

The study, authored by Wagner, is based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which gathers self-reported job numbers from employers. While other metrics — like online platforms that count unique job postings — suggest hiring growth in the state has been more modest than the federal data suggests, the trend appears to be moving in a positive direction, and experts say that is primarily due to the state’s ongoing recovery from the pandemic.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how strong the numbers are,” said GNO Inc. President and CEO Michael Hecht. “But I think this shows that people are spending again, companies are investing and industry is taking advantage of the opportunities that we have created in this state over the past several years.”       

Regional differences

Most of the job growth last year occurred in three sectors in the state’s two largest metro areas, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Healthcare added more than 11,000 new jobs. Construction — including residential, commercial and industrial — added some 8,200 jobs, and state government grew by 7,100 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the New Orleans area, hotels, restaurants and other hospitality-related businesses added around 3,400 jobs.

In Baton Rouge, the construction sector was particularly strong, with more than 9,000 new jobs. That was one of the highest increases in construction hiring in the nation, according to Andrew Fitzgerald, senior vice president for Business Intelligence at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

“Construction is booming in Baton Rouge,” Fitzgerald said. “There was such a backlog of projects that were put on pause during COVID, and they came roaring back last year.”

It’s significant to note that the growth in Baton Rouge offset the loss of some 900 construction jobs in north and central Louisiana, which is why the state notched an overall gain of 8,200 new construction jobs.

“This data really shows that Louisiana is not a monolith,” Fitzgerald said. “The growth is very region by region and it is not the same across the board.”

Baton Rouge-based Turner Industries, an industrial contractor, was among those that added construction workers to their payroll last year.  Turner President and CEO Stephen Toups estimates the company hired several hundred construction workers for a variety of projects across the Louisiana-Texas Gulf Coast.

He expects more to come this year and next, when many projects currently in the engineering and design stage break ground.

“We’re seeing a tremendous amount of conversation and planning going into the energy future of tomorrow, whatever that looks like,” Toups said.

Granted, construction jobs are usually temporary and can be held by workers from out of the area or, even, out of state. As a result, they’re not as valuable as a permanent job that will enable someone to put down roots, buy a house and pay taxes.

Still, they matter because they increase spending, signal investment, and, in the case of construction jobs related to the energy transition, may last for several years.

“Construction jobs are temporary but can lead to permanent jobs,” Hecht said.

Not up to pre-pandemic levels

In New Orleans, the hospitality sector is a regional growth area. After COVID shutdowns and restrictions that shuttered hotels and restaurants and chilled tourist activity for much of 2020 and 2021, 2022 saw a gradual rebound that picked up still more steam in 2023.

Michael Valentino, who owns and operates seven hotels and New Orleans Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours, gradually staffed up last year, adding employees in administration, management and customer-facing positions. He’s the first to admit it wasn’t a great year. The summer was one of the slowest in recent memory and after an uptick in the fall, December visitor numbers slumped again.


A Hop On Hop Off tour bus takes customers on a drive down Canal Street in downtown New Orleans on Friday, November 5, 2021. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Still, on balance, Valentino added several dozen new employees and said the company is “feeling much more like our old, pre-pandemic self.”

While that’s a good feeling, Valentino said it’s important to note that the job growth doesn’t mean business is back to pre-COVID levels. His company had around 285 workers before the pandemic and fell to 185 at its lowest point. Today, it’s back up to 235, nearly 18% below from where it was in 2019.

“These job numbers are not really new jobs but restored jobs,” he said. “We’re healing but not expanding.”

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests Valentino’s experience is not unique. Despite the 4% uptick in hospitality jobs across metro New Orleans in 2023, some 10,000 fewer people are employed in the sector than in 2019, a nearly 11% decrease.

Similarly, jobs in New Orleans across all sectors were off about 2% last year compared to 2019, while statewide job numbers over the four-year period were effectively flat.

“Statewide, we are hovering where we were pre-pandemic,” Fitzgerald said. “In Baton Rouge, we are are ahead of where we were. New Orleans is still nipping at the heels of pre-pandemic job numbers, and some areas of the state are still not recovered yet at all.”

Healthcare hiring

One area that has seen near across-the-board job growth is the healthcare sector, which added more than 11,000 new jobs statewide, some 4,000 of which were in New Orleans and another 2,300 in Baton Rouge.

Registered nurse Kimberly Wilson of UMC

Kimberly Wilson, far left, is a registered nurse at University Medical Center in New Orleans. (Photo by Chris Granger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Woman’s Hospital was responsible for a small part of that growth, adding at least 75 new jobs at its Airline Highway campus. Hospital spokesperson Laurel Burgos said the positions were added to support growing patient volumes, particularly in cancer services.

Ochsner Health, which laid off more than 700 mostly clerical and management-level employees last year amid soaring operating costs, is currently hiring to fill hundreds of open patient-facing jobs. LCMC Health also has hundreds of openings and Baton Rouge-based Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System has around 100 openings, according to hiring platforms.

The three major health systems could not say how many employees they added last year, but all said the healthcare sector continues to grow, and the need for nurses, allied health workers and other clinical staff will only increase over time.

“Ochsner Health continually recruits talented clinical team members to care for patients,” Chief People and Culture Officer Tracey Schiro said in a prepared statement. “In 2023, we added hundreds of clinical team members over the previous year to provide patient care and meet our communities’ growing healthcare needs.”


About Mary Weyand 12339 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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