Katrina: Bad for People, Good for Business

According to this story, Hurricane Katrina might have devastated New Orleans and much of Louisiana, but it sure did blow a bunch of money Texas' way. The Bloomberg piece corresponds with a news release issued last month by the Texas Workforce Commission, which said Texas added 279,400 new jobs during the 12 months that ended on March 31. (Employment figures are also at an all-time high, at nearly 10 million jobs; unemployment rates, though, are holding steady.) Bloomberg's reporting that the state now estimates its budget surplus will double, to about $8.2 billion, by August 2007--which makes one wonder how that whole school-finance thing turned into such a mess, but whatever. And how does it all tie into Katrina? Fiona Sigalla, the virtual floor is yours:

"Spending tied to an influx of 125,000 hurricane evacuees also aided the economy, said Fiona Sigalla, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. So did production of building materials for storm-recovery work in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as residential and commercial construction in the state. 'After Katrina, apartments filled up, federal dollars flowed in and Texas manufacturers got extra orders for glass, bricks and cement,' Sigalla said in an interview. 'We saw stimulus from the evacuees and the rebuilding.'''

And then there's this nugget, buried in the piece: Katrina evacuees who settled in Dallas, Houston and elsewhere in the state are "being given partial credit for an increase of $1.7 billion, or 4.8 percent, in state sales-tax revenue, which funds half of Texas's budget." So, yeah, there's a little crime washing in from New Orleans' battered shores, but a lot of cash too. --Robert Wilonsky

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