An unreported culprit in New Orleans' slow recovery: low wages

Here at Facing South, we've reported a lot on the affordable housing crisis still gripping New Orleans as the city enters the fifth year of post-Katrina recovery.To address the problem, policy-makers and advocates have focused on supply, pushing to preserve or build affordable housing options.

But a new report by the excellent Greater New Orleans Community Data Center points out that's only part of the equation. The other problem is the city low-wage service economy: 47% of full-time, year-round employees in the Big Easy earn less than $35,000 a year.

Here's a chart from the Center laying out the problem:

NOLA Wages.png

In 2002, New Orleans was one of the first cities to pass a city-wide living wage ordinance. After Katrina hit in 2005, an explosion of rebuilding jobs drove down unemployment and boosted wages.

But clearly workers in New Orleans, like many metro areas, face a deeper problem: A metro economy structurally built around low-wage jobs, and a relatively weak labor movement to advocate for workers' interests.