According to recent data from the Associated General Contractors of America, the New Orleans-Metairie metro area lost 2,700 construction jobs in the past year, more than any other city nationwide.
AGC reported 28,700 construction jobs in the area in June 2015, down 9% from June 2014. Louisiana Associated General Contractors CEO Ken Naquin says the job losses are largely attributed to the recent completion of several large projects. Two $1 billion hospital projects in New Orleans are wrapping up plus $14.5 billion in flood control work with the Corps of Engineers has ended.
Naquin says New Orleans has been in a decade-long rebuilding construction boom since Hurricane Katrina that has included tens of billions of dollars of infrastructure, commercial and residential work.
"We've just seen completion of a lot of these post-Katrina projects and most of that money has been spent. The repairs, rebuilding and new construction is mostly done," says Naquin.
He says the completion of the University Medical Center on August 1 put another 1,500 construction workers out of a job. Statewide, many other large projects have also ended. Naquin says highway construction work went from a 6-year streak of near $1.2 billion annually to less than an estimated $600 million for this year.
Nevertheless, Naquin says the overall Louisiana construction employment market is "holding its own." The state lost 2,400 construction jobs, a 1.7% decline, during that period but much was weighed down by the New Orleans area.
Cities such as Shreveport and Baton Rouge are showing steady construction employment numbers. Louisiana is also on the verge of starting more than $100 billion in chemical plant construction projects, something Naquin says could fuel construction growth for years.
"They're going to need 8,000 to 10,000 new [construction] workers in the northwest part of the state near Lake Charles in the next year and a half," he says.