The Capital Region saw positive economic trends in 2018 and is poised to continue its success into this year. Through November 2018, the region added nearly 6,500 jobs, with the construction and education & health services industries making the largest strides. The region is currently home to nearly 417,000 jobs. This growth caused the unemployment rate to drop to 4.0 percent, in line with the national rate of 3.9 percent.
In 2019, BRAC projects that the region will see a 1.3 percent job growth, which would equate to about 5,100 new jobs. Construction, healthcare and retail are set to see the greatest growth. In addition, each of the nine parishes in the Capital Region is set to see job growth. While East Baton Rouge is anticipated to see the greatest growth in terms of overall number with 1,785 new jobs, Iberville (4.3 percent job growth), Ascension (3.3 percent), and Livingston (2.9 percent) are set to pace the region in terms of rate of growth.
The job growth also caused a spike in income. In 2016, median household income for Baton Rouge fell to $52,487, likely because of closures caused by the flood in that year. However, in 2017, income rose to $57,401, a 9.3 percent increase in a single year. This rebound makes the Baton Rouge Area competitive in recruiting and retaining top talent in the region – a major concern, based on our annual survey of local business leaders. The data bore this advantage out, as the Capital Region saw positive net migration of nearly 4,000 new residents – greater than peer cities such as Birmingham, Mobile, and Louisville. Overall, the region is projected to add nearly 7,000 new residents by 2020, which would bring our total population to approximately 847,000. Ascension is set to lead the region in population growth, and is projected to see its population increase by 1.5 percent in 2019. Next are West Baton Rouge and Livingston, projected to grow by 1.1 and 0.9 percent respectively.
Unfortunately, not every indicator was positive for the region. While income has risen over the last five years, so has the poverty rate, which currently sits at 17.5 percent – a rate higher than every peer city but Mobile. In addition, Baton Rouge suffers from the same racial wage gap as its peer cities and the country overall – African American household income is nearly 40 percent lower than overall household income. This issue is exacerbated because of how diverse the region is – over a third of the households in the Capital Region are African American, meaning that this disparity is borne by a large segment of the population. The regional economy is strong and does not show signs of slowing, but it is important to note these areas of concern and look to address them in the coming year.
View BRAC’s full 2019 Economic Outlook at brac.org/reports.