Louisiana or Mississippi: Which Has The Best City To Start a Business?

By Robert Hand
July 28, 2023

Businesses looking to expand and open a new location always research demographic criteria such as population count, income, age and how nearby residents spend their money; however, one of the most reliable indicators of future success of a business is nearby employment that affects the ability of customers to purchase goods and services. This article explores the major cities in Louisiana and Mississippi to see who ranks #1 in putting people to work.


First, let’s examine how Louisiana and Mississippi as a whole are doing and then we will drill down into the top cities in each. For Louisiana, employment increased steadily from 1.4 million in 1976 when data was first collected until 2014 when the number of people with jobs peaked at 2 million and has been stuck there the last 9 years with only a gain of 11,123 workers since. The average gain in employment has been .92% per year since 1976.


Mississippi paints a grim scenario with increased employment from 900,000 in 1976 until peaking at 1.24 million in 2000 and never recovering. That is a total loss of 35,000 workers the last 23 years.

Next let’s drill down into the top 4 cities in Louisiana and then get into Mississippi cities. What we uncover is a wide variety of employment growth, with ups and downs characterized by each city’s competitive advantage such as natural resources or being closely tied to the oil industry or to government.

Louisiana Top Cities

Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge tells a Cinderella story with employment in 1990 of 280,000 growing steady to 440,000 in 2023. In the 32 years of data, Baton Rouge employment rose each year 80% of the time and the worst decline was only 5% due to Covid in 2020.

New Orleans

New Orleans since 1990 has been in cardiac arrest. Starting in 1990 with employment of 552,000 and ending in 2023 with 565,000, New Orleans has only gained 13,000 workers, or 2.5% over the 33-year time frame. Even before Katrina in 2005, New Orleans had been stagnant, with only a 6% total gain of 13,000 workers for the 14-year period from 1990 to 2004.


Shreveport grew steadily with 169,000 employment in 1990 until 1999, then declined for 3 years, then exploded 30,000 jobs or 17% for 7 years until 2006 due to oil prices climbing from $26 per barrel to $61 during the same 3-year period.

Employment then declined steadily for the next 17 years to 179,000. The result is a total employment growth of 10,000 jobs, or 6% during the 33-year time frame.


Lafayette is the 4th largest municipality in Louisiana with a population of 240,000, and solid growth in employment of 156,000 in 1990 growing 33% to 207,000 in 2023. Lafayette also benefitted from the 2002-2006 oil price increase, but peaked in 2014 with employment at 220,000, followed by a 6% decline over the next 9 years.

Mississippi Top Cities

Mississippi ranks at the bottom in household income, 3rd to the bottom in percent graduating high school, and bottom in health care among all 50 states. Let’s examine how Mississippi’s major cities are growing.


The Hattiesburg MSA which includes Laurel has a population around 170,000 and enjoyed a steady 40% employment growth from 47,000 workers in 1990 to 67,000 on 2023. In the 33-year period of recordkeeping, employment increased 65% of the time and never declined more than 4% from one calendar year to the next.


Jackson enjoyed solid growth from 1990 with 216,000 people employed until peaking in 2004 at 264,000 workers and for the last 19 years has lost 9,000 workers total. There were 3 severe drops in employment: losing 24,000 people from 2004 to 2010, building it back up but then losing 16,000 from 2012 to 2014, then building employment back up, only to lose 42,000 workers in 5 months but then building it back up to almost the 2004 level.

Gulfport/Biloxi MSA

Gulfport has a population of 72,000 and Biloxi has 50,000 and the Gulfport/Biloxi MSA includes the surrounding 4 counties with a population of 246,000 people. Employment since 1990 grew from 126,000 to 1999, peaking at 171,000 for the next 24 years. The most severe loss was 31,000 workers within 6 months due to Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005. The area never recovered. Total growth since 1990 has been 32,000 people working, averaging only .8% growth per year.

Rockstar Cities

Baton Rouge and Hattiesburg stand out as having the best employment growth, but they are dwarfed by other cities with spectacular growth rates from 70% to over 200%. Unfortunately, those cities are located in other states. Let’s look at a few cities with exceptional employment growth, making them a no-brainer as the perfect new location for a business.

Austin, Texas MSA

Austin grew employment consistently from 445,000 in 1990 to 1,380,000 in 2023, with total employment growth of 935,000 or 210% which averages 6% growth per year. The only decline was due to Covid, causing employment to decline 15% but within 12 months employment had recovered to the 1,240,000 number and is now 138,000 workers above the Covid peak and at an all-time high.

Dallas, Texas

Dallas grew from 1990 employment of 2.1 million to 4.2 million in 2023 with only one 4-month Covid decline of 10% then a recovery.

Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville grew employment consistently from 145,000 in 1990 to 250,000 in 2023, with total employment growth of 105,000 or 72% which averages 2% growth per year. The only stagnant period was from 2008 to 2015 was due the mortgage meltdown, but in the past 8 years employment has increased 20% by 50,000 jobs.


The cities that have a definite trend in creating jobs are Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, so locating a new business in these thriving economic areas would increase the chance of being successful. There are many reasons certain cities grow their economy and create jobs, such as a business-friendly environment with low government restrictions or a high number of corporate headquarters. Our next article drills down into what the top cities are doing to increase employment that the laggard cities are not.

For more information on how to select the best location for a business, check out our article, Which City Ranks Tops In Growth In The U.S.?

Louisiana Commercial Realty

Commercial Real Estate Experts
Robert Hand, MBA, CCIM, SIOR
Licensed in Louisiana & Mississippi
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