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September 02, 2005
Jobs Swept Away by Katrina

One expert says Hurricane Katrina has put a half-million Gulf Coast residents out of work. Another predicts the total will exceed 1 million.

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But the experts, interviewed by the Associated Press, agreed on one thing: It will take months before people get back to work in hurricane-ravaged areas. Some may not have jobs to return to, while others may opt to move away and find work elsewhere, they said.

Workers in flooded-out New Orleans are taking the biggest hit, analysts told the AP.

Rajeev Dhawan, director of the economic forecasting project at Georgia State University, said the tragedy in that city "is so unprecedented people could be out of work for 3, 6, 9 months or longer."

By Dhawan's estimates close to 1 million people have been thrust out of work in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Phil Hopkins, managing director of U.S. regional services for Global Insight, estimates that at least a half a million people are out of work because of the storm.

The situation probably will propel area unemployment rates now in the single digits to the double digits in coming months -- even when one accounts for employment gains from rebuilding efforts, Hopkins said.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the area of New Orleans, Metairie and Kenner was 4.9 percent in July, Hopkins said based on his calculations. The jobless rate there could easily climb to 25 percent, he estimated.

In another storm-slammed area of Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in July was 5.7 percent, Hopkins said. That jobless rate could rise to around 20 percent or higher, he added.

"It's a pretty sizable impact. Commerce has come to a standstill in those counties that were hit," Hopkins said.

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