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Economist on Acadiana's Business Climate

Economist on Acadiana's business climate: "We're gaining a little bit back, but we're not gaining it back at a quick pace"

Economic growth in Acadiana appears to be slowing, but this is not necessarily an indicator of an impending recession, according to University of Louisiana Lafayette's Acadiana business economist Dr. Gary Wagner.

At One Acadiana's monthly council luncheon Thursday, Wagner went over what he called Acadiana's economic vitals. Acadiana, along with New Orleans, is currently one of the strongest metro regions in the state, with gross domestic product growth of 1.4 percent over the past three months. However, that growth is slowing, Wagner said. The most recent job growth numbers from March show that it has slowed to only .9 percent. 

While the latest numbers indicate an economic slowdown, Wagner said Acadiana has displayed remarkable resilience. Very few places in the country could suffer the nearly 10 percent loss in jobs Acadiana saw in 2015 and still keep going the way it has been, Wagner said.  

"It's a miracle in some ways that we're growing at all given the magnitude of given the magnitude of this hit," Wagner said. "You had a very, very rare event and I think it's a testament to the region and how resilient it is that it is growing. Once we look at how things look a little further down the road, we could see that it might take a little bit longer than we thought, but we'll get there."

According to Wagner, recovery from the 2015 hit to the oil and gas industry has taken longer than previous recessions and has started to level off. Recovery from the 2 percent drop in 1991 took just over a year; the 3 percent hit in 1998 took just over two years and the 5 percent hit in 2009 took four years for the state's jobs to recover.

"What's essentially happened, and you know this better than I do, is we had a big contraction in oil and gas," Wagner said. "Other sectors in the economy have been growing, but that growth hasn't been nearly fast enough to offset that loss. Even though we're going to continue hopefully to experience some growth in the near term, we always think about the way things used to be, but it's going to be a little more time before it feels like the way it used to be."

Much of the growth in the region has been in the areas of health and education services and leisure and hospitality, while it is still losing mining and gas jobs and trade, transportation and utility jobs, according to Wagner.

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