NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, less than half the city's pre-storm population of 455,000 has returned.
The city that initially declared "We will rebuild!" is still largely abandoned and many people wonder if the destruction may be all but permanent, the Washington Post reported Sunday.
The population of adjacent St. Bernard Parish is less than 20,000 now, down from 65,000. In small towns along the Mississippi Coast, from Bay St. Louis to Biloxi, fewer than 5 percent of destroyed homes are being rebuilt.
The prolonged absence of tens of thousands of people is perplexing officials along the 80-mile stretch of the Gulf Coast, from New Orleans to Biloxi.
And as the economy has shriveled along with the population, jobs have also disappeared.
Employment in the sprawling New Orleans region has shrunk to 437,000 jobs, down about 30 percent from pre-storm levels. Within the city, the percentage is considerably higher.