By Jim Davis
What the locals say
Oil, water and tourism power the Pelican State’s economy.
President Thomas Jefferson engineered the Louisiana Purchase in 1803,
which entailed the acquisition from France of some 828,000 square miles of
land, nearly doubling the size of the United States at the time. The U.S. paid
$15 million for the land, less than 3 cents per acre. The acquisition paved the
way for Louisiana to join the U.S. just nine years later.
Today, the Pelican State features a rich blend of history, culture and outdoor
scenery. The state is famous for its Mardi Gras celebrations, jazz festivals
and New Orleans’ French Quarter. It’s also known for its culinary tradition of
gumbo, jambalaya and other inventive dishes drawn from the French,
Spanish, African, Caribbean, Irish, German and American Indian cultures.
In addition, Louisiana features 400 miles of beaches and coastline, the fifth
most of any state in the U.S.
It’s no wonder that tourism is such a vital part of Louisiana’s economy.
Last year, 47.1 million people visited the state spending a record $17.5 billion.
Louisiana relies heavily on its access to the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River.
The commercial fishing industry, for instance, is the most productive seafood
fishery in the lower 48 states. About 1 billion pounds of seafood is caught
commercially each year with an estimated dockside value of $300 million.
The Port of South Louisiana ranks as the biggest port in the U.S. in terms
of total tonnage handled, 217.8 million. The Port of New Orleans comes in
fourth, at 90. 8 million tons.
The state ranks as the second-largest producer of oil in the country behind
Texas and comes in fourth for natural gas, economist Loren C. Scott states in
a study produced for Mid-Continental Oil and Gas. Some 44,580 people are
employed statewide in oil and gas extraction, at refineries and in support
of the state’s more than 92,000 miles of pipelines. Some $100 billion worth
of petrochemical projects have been planned in recent years.
The state has suffered recently economically, however. Oil prices plummeted in 2014. Since then, Louisiana has lost more than 18,500 jobs in the
mining and logging sector, which includes the oil industry. That’s tough
since these jobs deliver some of the state’s highest salaries.
The state’s gross domestic product shrank in both 2016 (by 0.4 percent) and
2017 (by 0.2 percent.). Louisiana was one of only three states in the U.S. with
a shrinking economy last year. This year, WalletHub — weighing 28 metrics
— ranked Louisiana as the 51st worst economy in the U.S. — behind every
state and the District of Columbia.
Another concern is loss of coastal land. More than 2,000 square miles of
coastal wetlands have washed away since 1932. Louisiana has launched a
$50 billion master plan to restore and protect the coast.
Louisiana’s per capita personal income in 2017 was $43,491, which ranked
37th in the U.S. The state had a population of nearly 4. 7 million last year.
About 20 percent of the population lives in poverty. n
Home sales and prices
Home prices and sales have been on an upward arc over the past few
years in Louisiana. The median sales price of a single-family home rose
from $145, 100 in 2012 to $168,400 in 2017, according to real estate data
company Zillow. Total sales of single-family homes climbed from 35,200
in 2012 to 46,000 in 2017, Zillow reports.
New construction dropped off the cliff in the aftermath of the Great
Recession, however, as it did across much of the country. Single-family
building permits issued in the state fell from 16,640 in 2007 to 10,048
in 2011, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. From 2012
through 2017, the number of building permits issued annually has been
growing slowly, reaching 13,557 last year.
Louisiana Single-Family Home Sales
Closed home sales Median sales price
President, Real Property Associates Inc.
“Louisiana had been harmed by the 2014 collapse in the oil
industry. ... That led to a slowdown in housing and, if you look
at communities like Lafayette, Houma and, to some degree,
Shreveport-Monroe, you’ll see their [building] permit activity
was way down. That spread to a variety of other problems,
like a $1 billion deficit for the state of Louisiana government.
In spite of that, New Orleans has had a period of rising
prices because Orleans Parish attracted young households
with high-tech backgrounds.”