Regional unemployment falls 8% over the week
Baton Rouge, La. (August 18, 2020) – The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) today released its COVID-19 economic indicator dashboard that examines and assesses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the regional economy. The dashboard is available online at brac.org/recovery.
“As we see the economy recover in several indicators, new issues emerge,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of business intelligence for BRAC. “For instance, this week we saw 4,000 fewer unemployment claims immediately after federal claim enhancement expired, and the likely return to work for these individuals is a positive. However, 51,000 have not returned to work, and the loss of the weekly enhancement leads to decreased consumer spending. Congress must act in a way that allows people to purchase food and pay mortgages while there are more unemployed individuals than there are jobs, but without disincentivizing return to work when jobs become available.”
This week’s dashboard is the first that includes data on the extent that the enhanced federal unemployment supplement discouraged employment. As BRAC reported in a recent analysis, the $600 weekly federal supplement accounted for more than $30 million in weekly income to Capital Region residents, a benefit to both unemployed individuals and the area’s small businesses. While trending downward, weekly unemployment claims remain about 20 times higher than a normal, pre-pandemic week.
Key findings from this week’s dashboard include:
- Consumer spending is relatively flat in Ascension and Livingston, but has dropped sharply in East Baton Rouge since the closure of bars and expiration of federal unemployment enhancement. The bar closure also corresponds with a drop in small businesses open in each parish;
- Retail fuel sales are slightly down over the week and year, but the trendline continues to indicate a movement toward consistent numbers in line with 2019 sales;
- Total weekly unemployment claims fell 8% to their lowest number since the week of April 4, but there were still over 51,000 jobless claims;
- Hotel occupancy continues to be a strength, as its 54% rate is higher than the corresponding week in 2019 (49%) for the first time since the pandemic began.
The dashboard looks at a number of data points to illustrate the economy’s current state. With data from a number of regional stakeholders, the dashboard is the most real-time analysis of the Baton Rouge metro economy available.
To download this week’s indicator dashboard directly, click here.
BRAC is regularly updating brac.org/recovery with business resources and guidance related to COVID-19.
About the Baton Rouge Area Chamber
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) leads economic development in the nine-parish Baton Rouge Area, working to grow jobs and wealth and to improve the business climate and competitiveness in the region. Today, BRAC investors include more than 1,400 small businesses, mid-sized firms, large industry and entrepreneurial startups, as well as individuals and organizations that support business and economic development. In this capacity, BRAC serves as the voice of the business community, providing knowledge, access, services and advocacy. More information is available at brac.org.