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Friday, February 16, 2007

Survey: Labor Demand Still Soaring in Gulf Coast Area

Labor markets in areas damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 continue to be among the most active markets in the United States, according to The Conference Board Help-Wanted OnLine DataSeries.

For the last three months, the average monthly count of online advertised vacancies in the New Orleans metro area was 17,300, a level that is more than double the monthly average for the three months before Katrina.

"In the last three months, the average number of ads for the nation was 11% above the three months prior to Katrina, well below the growth in the Lake Charles (65%), Pascagoula (30%), Gulfport (41%) and New Orleans (105%) metro areas for the same period," says Gad Levanon, economist at TheConference Board. "The Houma metro area had a very dramatic rise in online ads after the storm and the average monthly number of advertised vacancies is still running about 1,700 ads per month, a level that is over five times the pre-hurricane level."

Adds Levanon: "Labor demand is also stronger than the national average in many of the metro areas where the Katrina evacuees fled."

Again, while vacancies were up 11% nationally, the three-month moving averages seen in Baton Rouge (74%), Austin (76%), Houston (49%), San Antonio (86%), and Dallas (37%) are much greater, the survey says.

The labor demand covers a wide range of occupations. In New Orleans the largest increase in demand is for office and administrative support, business and financial operations, and management occupations. "It's not just construction," notes Levanon. "In the damaged areas, the number of ads for architects and engineers has more than doubled, reflecting there building efforts. The high labor demand is a positive sign for the revitalization of the Gulf Coast area. But it is just part of the overall dynamic of the area. Population shifts make a big difference."

In some areas like Lake Charles, the labor force has rebounded almost to its pre-hurricane size while New Orleans' labor force is reported to be down over 30 percent from its previous level. "Part of the labor demand reflects the difficulty of finding workers in the reduced local labor force," he says.

The Conference Board Help-Wanted OnLine Data Series is released monthly and measures the number of unduplicated online jobs postedon more than 1,200 major Internet job boards and smaller job boards that serve niche markets and smaller geographic areas.

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