Higher wages indicate strong, growing economy in Baton Rouge metro area, BRAC says

Business Report

Wages for black workers in the Baton Rouge metro area have risen 33% since 2005 and wages across the board have risen 27% during the same period, according to statistics from the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. The increases dwarf the average wage increase in Louisiana and across the country by five and 11 percentage points, respectively.

Andrew Fitzgerald, BRAC’s director of business intelligence, pointed to those numbers and a plethora of others to tout the strong, but still growing, economy in the nine-parish Baton Rouge metro area.

The numbers were offered today during a presentation at “Locally Vested: An Economic Outlook for the Capital Region,” which was hosted by Louisiana Construction and Industry Association, the members services arm of Louisiana Construction and Industry Workers’ Comp.

“All this is interconnected,” Fitzgerald said. “You’re seeing more jobs, you’re seeing higher wages, and because of that, you’re seeing people in a better place to purchase homes.”

The Baton Rouge metro area surpassed 400,000 jobs in 2015—the first time that has been accomplished in the area of more than 800,000 people. The surge in jobs last year comes after a great 2014, and the area has added about 10,000 jobs every year since 2010.

“We are definitely a driver of jobs for the state economy,” Fitzgerald said.

Much of this job growth occurred in the latter years of the Great Recession. But it was the diversified economy, along with the oil and gas industry, in Baton Rouge that helped the area fare better than most during the worst years, Fitzgerald said.

In the housing market, homes sales were up 8.7% in 2015 from the year before.

“That’s great. That shows that people feel more stable in their job, they have more disposable income that they were able to cobble together and make a down payment,” Fitzgerald said. “People feel a sense of stability, they like the region and want to stay here.”

During the middle of the year, Fitzgerald said home sales were up so much, hovering between at least 10% and 11% higher than the year before, that he and others were scared Baton Rouge was in the middle of a housing bubble. But the sales slowed toward the end of the year, easing those concerns.

“You had higher prices, larger growth—it was going to be unsustainable, so I’m glad things leveled out,” he said.

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