When we look at the many national experts who are predicting Americans – in general – will have a good 2015, we also want to look at those indicators in terms of New Orleans. The U.S. and certainly New Orleans’ economy appears to be hitting its stride. GDP growth nationally will rise approximately three percent, despite turmoil in global oil markets, concerns over stock valuations, war and the recession, according to WalletHub, a one-stop information source for consumers and small business owners.
As the nation’s economy gets rolling, unemployment figures are trending back to pre-recession levels. While they started out at 6.6% nationally in 2014 -they will continue to decrease probably to 5% in 2015. What impact that will have on New Orleans high unemployment figures for black males remains to be seen. Many of those individuals probably require fresh training to prepare for new jobs coming on line.
Though some still question the strength of America’s economic recovery, many others are cautiously optimistic. Wages are continuing to slowing increase with this year’s prediction pegged at 3%, up slightly from last year. The battle to raise the minimum wage and wages and benefits in general for minority workers will pick up steam as we move closer to the presidential elections.
Many investors who rely heavily on the stock markets are pleased that S&P growth could be strong enough to hit 2,250 in 2015, a 13% uptick. Individual investors are entering the market with more force, interest rates are still low and corporate balance sheets appear strong. New Orleans’ publically traded businesses like FNBC will benefit as well.
Not everyone gets a new car every three years like Allan. The age of the average American automobile is 11.4 years. But with the favorability of the current buying climate in light of historically low interest rates, auto sales nationally could top 17 Million in 2015. That’s good news for our big new car dealers like Ray Brandt and Troy Duhon as well as the mom and pop used car lots. Shoppers should note that dealerships offer the lowest financing rates, followed by credit unions, then banks, and that interest rates are always lower on a new – rather than used – car.
Real estate sales will finally rebound nationally in 2015. While home sales have been sluggish around the country, the New Orleans market has continued to be viable. Nationally, consumers don’t want to make the same home-buying mistakes of the past that caused them to lose their properties. Growth is trending toward big operators like Latter & Blum who are able to handle all services needed in house.
The international drop in oil prices, which could dip to $50 per barrel, is clearly the biggest weak spot in Louisiana’s economy. If winter weather remains cold around the country, oil prices will trend higher. While we love the cheap gas, we hate to guess what budget cuts Governor Jindal and the Louisiana Legislature might have to make.
Despite a shift in federal policy, interest rates will remain amazingly low because of wage stagnation, declining oil prices and consumer debt. Unfortunately, consumer debt could rise to almost $70 Billion in 2015 as many consumers still can’t control their bad personal spending habits. The current credit card debt per household is $7,216 and could go up to $8,300 in 2015. Paying down credit cards and debt in general is a hard concept for many to grasp in our “gotta have more-bigger” economy.
With an improved economy, many people who have been harboring entrepreneurial ideas will have more courage to pursue their start-up dreams in 2015 which will attract more businesses and skilled workers to our great city. As hiring picks up, freelancers also find full-time jobs only to be replaced by new freelancers eager to find their way in our market.
2015 WILL BE A GOOD YEAR FOR NEW ORLEANS TOO — EXCEPT FOR OUR CRIME PROBLEM
We were very pleased with Mayor Landrieu’s remarks on Monday regarding the year’s accomplishments and upcoming expectations for 2015, as long as the City can make significant progress on our ongoing crime problem. The move by French Quarter citizens to personally print their own signs urging people to walk in groups rather than alone sends a clear message that extraordinary measures must be taken now to protect visitors and residents throughout the city. Crime is everywhere. No one is truly safe.
We don’t blame Mayor Landrieu or the police, there are just not enough police to go around. We also need to increase wages to hire and maintain enough officers. Putting more cops on the street is only part of the answer.
The whole culture of those individuals who commit the majority of the crimes must change – a new mindset, better education, vocational training, access to decent paying jobs, and a feeling that life has something to offer them beyond crime, drugs, alcohol and death. This would be New Orleans’ most important accomplishment in 2015 and would make life here for everyone better.
FORMER MAYOR MARC MORIAL LOOKS TO THE FUTURE
We always enjoy Marc Morial’s holiday visits with his family and friends in New Orleans. This year events were especially poignant as former Mayor Dutch Morial’s remains were moved to a new large tomb at St. Louis #3 which will hold future generations of Morials, many of whom were present at the ceremony. At an awards luncheon hosted by the Urban League, which Morial serves at national president, Morial urged the 150 attendees to bring balance to the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Orleans. The Katrina anniversary must be a commemoration, not a celebration, Morial said. After all, 2000 people died and many thousands still want to come home. As for the city’s tricentennial, he hopes the activities will be true to the history of all the events and people who helped shape New Orleans. We could not agree more.
Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several television programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.