BRAC economic dashboard: COVID surge threatens private sector job gains

Greater Baton Rouge Business Report

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber today released its July COVID-19 economic indicator dashboard, which assesses the impact of the pandemic on the regional economy.  

“Leisure and hospitality employment is only 3.1% below its pre-pandemic levels, indicating that restaurants and hotels are almost all the way back,” says Andrew Fitzgerald, senior vice president of business intelligence for BRAC. “The biggest threat to this comeback is another wave of COVID, and the Capital Region remains much less vaccinated than the country as a whole. Every jab a resident gets is a boon to our continuing economic recovery.” 

Nearly every private industry saw positive growth over July, led by education and health care and professional services. Leisure and hospitality added another 600 jobs over the month, recouping 3,600 jobs since January. Despite this positive momentum, job recovery in the Capital Region and across the state notably lags out-of-state peer metros.  

Key findings from this month’s dashboard include: 

• Job growth dipped slightly in June despite strong performance from the private sector—government jobs dropped by more than 4,000.

• Construction continues to be the hardest-hit sector, down about 6,700 jobs from its pre-pandemic level.

• Consumer spending remained above pre-pandemic levels in July, accentuating a disconnect between employment data and other indicators.

• Hotel occupancy remained strong, indicating that despite rising case counts in the latest COVID wave, travel is strengthening.

Regional vaccination rates, while still behind national benchmarks, saw a significant 5.6% uptick over the month. The alarming surge of COVID-19 cases regionally and statewide poses a significant threat to sustained economic recovery. BRAC recommends that businesses host on-site vaccination events for employees. Information on points of contact for arranging on-site vaccinations can be found on BRAC’s blog. See the full economic report.

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