Two years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, recovery – physical and economic – in New Orleans continues, though at a pace that continues to slow as time elapses, resulting in a “real and perceived sense of stagnation” by some residents and observers.

According to a new Brookings Institution report, New Orleans has reached an economic plateau, with many key indicators pointing to almost 80% of pre-Katrina levels. The recently released second anniversary edition of the New Orleans Index, entitled “A Review of Key Indicators of Recovery Two Years After Katrina,” examines social and economic indicators as well as local public services and infrastructure.

While overall trends – including a stabilized housing market, continued population growth, and an uptick in sales tax revenues – are positive, the Brookings reports also points to “clear disparities and areas of concern.” The New Orleans metro area is experiencing an increase in unemployment, a higher cost of living, and lower student test scores. There is also a significant gap in recovery between the area’s most affected parishes.

What’s next? Brookings says that “it may be best for efforts around recovery to shift away from a focus on speed to one of quality.”

The report was published in conjunction with the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, an organization that provides information designed to help the nonprofit sector gain access to and intrepret local economic indicators to aid in their rebuilding and recovery efforts. The GNOCDC web site is chock full of data, articles, and other resources pertaining to the New Orleans economy – pre and post-Katrina.

The City of New Orleans web site includes several pages devoted to the area’s recovery efforts and status, including a Recovery Matrix that provides comparative data by department – economic development to aviation and healthcare.

Hot Off the Press: Demographics Update

On September 12, 2007, Brookings released a report entitled “Resettling New Orleans: The First Full Picture from the Census,” based on 2006 data from the American Community Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau.

This report examines the socio-economic composition of New Orleans’ population – as well as the in-migration and out-migration patterns – one year after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Its major findings:

  • The black population of the City of New Orleans declined by 57 percent, while its white population decreased by 36 percent.
  • The post-storm population was smaller, older, more educated, less poor, with fewer renters and fewer households with children, compared to 2000 Census figures.
  • Out-migrants were younger and poorer than the population that stayed in the City following the storms.
  • Black New Orleans residents were more likely to have moved to the Houston area, while white residents mostly moved to other parts of the New Orleans metro area.