There has been much talk about recent census data showing net out-migration from the city of New Orleans to other U.S. cities in 2017. Some are saying that this is evidence that the post-Katrina population boom is over. Others are pointing out that, including babies and foreign immigration, the population of Orleans Parish was still slightly up year-on-year. Still others say that these numbers are unreliable, and should be ignored.
Regardless, these explanations gloss over some important underlying trends.
First, while the population of Orleans Parish might be flat year-on-year, the region of Greater New Orleans, as a whole, continues to grow. I would argue this overall regional growth is a more relevant indicator of our competitive health. For example, when we speak of our rivalry with Atlanta, we talk about competing with a place with 5.8 million people, covering a landmass nearly as big as Massachusetts. But this is actually regional Atlanta. The City of Atlanta, itself, has a population of only 485,000. Why would we limit ourselves to “the city,” but give Atlanta a mega-region?
Clearly, we need to compare — and compete — on a regional basis.
Second, some, like Robert Eisenstadt, an economics professor at UL-Monroe, point out that we “rely heavily on the static oil and gas industries, as well as tourism,” and need to “attract companies in high-growth sectors” in order to grow. Apparently, Eisenstadt missed the recent news that New Orleans just landed the biggest economic development jobs win in Louisiana history, 2,000 IT jobs from DXC Technology. Eisenstadt also missed that, even before this announcement, New Orleans was No. 1 in the USA for tech job growth. Or, for that matter, that Greater New Orleans is No. 1 in the United States for health care job growth.
The New Orleans region is aggressively and successfully diversifying.
Clearly, there are challenges that the city of New Orleans must continue to address, including rising housing costs (that are to some degree a consequence of success). But when one takes a regional, and long-term, view, greater New Orleans continues to grow and diversify for the future.