Spike in consumer spending and drop in unemployment point to economic strengthening
Baton Rouge, La. (August 26, 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.
“This week’s data has shown the strongest signs of recovery since the outset of the pandemic,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of business intelligence for BRAC. “Unemployment claims fell sharply, while spending rebounded in East Baton Rouge and stayed strong in other parishes. As parts of the economy move more toward full recovery, policy makers will be able to better understand who is still struggling because of the pandemic – leisure and hospitality, DBEs, unemployed individuals, and others – and craft further relief policies accordingly.”
Key findings from this week’s dashboard include:
- Total weekly unemployment claims dropped sharply for a second straight week, for a total drop of 22% since the week ending August 1;
- Consumer spending rose significantly in East Baton Rouge through August 9, meaning that the three largest parishes in the region are within 5% of pre-pandemic spending;
- Small business revenues in Ascension and East Baton Rouge have grown despite numerous closures due to the roll-back of some Phase Two openings; however, Livingston has been hit significantly, with 34% of small businesses closed and revenues down more than 40%;
- Hotel occupancy continues to trend toward 2019 averages, although next week’s numbers may be artificially high due to hurricane evacuations;
- Retail fuel sales were higher than the same week in 2019 for both the metro area and state, continuing the upward trend in the statistic. Next week will likely show increased sales as well, due to the hurricane.
The two-week drop in combined weekly unemployment claims suggests a non-negligible number of residents stayed on unemployment due to the federal enhancement to benefits. The drop coincides with the expiration of those supplemental benefits, and the reinstatement of the state’s work search requirement.
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.