The Westside Journal
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) today released its monthly COVID-19 economic indicator dashboard. The dashboard examines and assesses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the regional economy. Current and archived dashboards are available online at brac.org/recovery.
“As more and more residents are vaccinated – at this point, more than 15% of Capital Region residents have received at least an initial dose – the economic data continues to improve,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of business intelligence for BRAC. “Between the Governor moving the reopening to Phase Three and the federal government issuing additional stimulus checks, local businesses should see increased activity in the coming weeks, meaning higher consumer spending and fewer unemployment claims.”
While data is lagging, the regional economy a year post stay-at-home orders is showing positive signs of a steady, sustained recovery. More than 70 percent of Baton Rouge households are eligible for the full amount of direct federal stimulus payment, which may lead to a bump in spending similar to that in April 2020 and further accelerate stabilization.
The region’s hotel occupancy and revenue were up over-the-week, an increase most likely attributable to the winter weather that knocked out power, but may also mirror a rebounding trend in national hospitality and tourism data.
Key findings from this month’s dashboard include:
• Weekly unemployment claims fell for the seventh straight week, and February marked the first time claims fell below 10,000 since the start of the pandemic;
• Low wage workers in Baton Rouge have been hit hardest – through the end of 2020, jobs for those making $60,000 or more were only down 3%, while jobs for those making less than $27,000 were down more than 15%;
• Between 15% and 18% of small businesses remain closed in the Capital Region’s three largest parishes of Ascension, Livingston, and East Baton Rouge;
• Consumer spending was at or above pre-pandemic levels in Livingston and Ascension in February, but down about 9% in East Baton Rouge; and
• The Capital Region had an initial vaccination rate of 16.6% as of March 8th, up from 8.2% around the same time last month.
BRAC will release a special edition dashboard at the end of March capturing month-end data for January not currently available, such as jobs by industry and unemployment. That dashboard will provide a first look at major indicators at the outset of the year.
BRAC’s Economic Indicator 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.