It’s a great time to look for a job in the New Orleans metro area. 

The local economy added more than 6,000 new jobs in the past year, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  New Orleans’ unemployment rate now stands at 6.4% - more than two points lower than the national average of 8.5%.  And a study by LSU says we can expect to see more job growth at least through 2018.

Here are the fields where the new jobs are forecast to appear: 

First, food manufacturing.  The seafood industry continues to make a strong comeback from the oil spill. Processing for seafood and other types of prepared food is forecast to be a strong growth industry for the metro area.

Speaking of oil, petroleum processing and refining are expected to continue to grow. President Obama announced this week more Gulf sites would soon open to drilling, and that’s expected to fuel more jobs in the refining and petro-chemical plants along the Mississippi River.

The opening of new hotels, like the New Orleans Hyatt, is a harbinger of the future in the hospitality industry. Locally, employment in this field has already grown by 7% in the past two years, and that growth is expected to continue over the next six years.

But the biggest job gainer in New Orleans is expected to be health care. Hospital employment is already up 10% from two years ago.  And with the planned opening of the VA/LSU medical complex in Mid-City, those numbers are expected to take off even more.  Young people choosing a career path and wanting to stay in New Orleans are advised to think “health care.”

While New Orleans is doing very well and expected to improve, one nearby metro area is doing even better. The Houma-Thibodaux area now has an unemployment rate of only 4.3%, among the lowest in the nation and more than two points below New Orleans’ enviable rate.