Full economic recovery stymied by labor shortage
Baton Rouge, La. (June 10, 2021) – The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) today released its monthly COVID-19 economic indicator dashboard that 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.
“With indicators such as consumer spending, hotel occupancy, and travel above pre-pandemic levels, the most significant barrier to full economic recovery is the region’s stubbornly high unemployment rate,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of research at BRAC. “Despite a reopening of the economy that included an end of pandemic mandates and restrictions, unemployment has stagnated with 50% more people jobless than before the pandemic. This jobless recovery is likely to continue until the federal enhancement to unemployment benefits is discontinued. There are currently more open jobs across industries, skillsets, and experience levels than there are out-of-work residents.”
Vaccine uptake across the region remains varied and low compared to national benchmarks, a potentially complicating factor in recovery if the region and state were to experience a reversal of declining COVID infections. East Baton Rouge, the region’s largest parish, has initiated vaccines on just under 40% of total population, while West Feliciana continues to lead the region at 72.3% initiation. St. Helena is significantly behind at just 19.6% initiation.
Key findings from this month’s dashboard include:
- Consumer spending is above pre-pandemic levels despite a high unemployment rate of 5.8%, due in part to increased disposable income for the unemployed from enhanced weekly federal benefits;
- Hotel occupancy and revenues are well above even 2019 levels, indication that travel and tourism have rebounded significantly;
- Jobs fell by 1,500 from March to April despite COVID restrictions being lifted and the economy reopening;
- Of the 33,459 unique job openings in the region that report salary data, median advertised salary is $22 an hour;
- Baton Rouge is now even further behind its out-of-state peer metros regarding job recovery, as growth has stalled in Louisiana’s three largest metros;
- After hitting a low in unemployment claims in late March, claims have stagnated in the 9,500 to 10,500 range in the two months since, well above the 2,200 pre-pandemic weekly count.
To download this month’s indicator dashboard directly, click here.
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.
Through its BR Works initiative, BRAC compiles local job openings. Job seekers can visit brac.org/br-works for access to hundreds of employers seeking applicants for a range of occupations.
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 1,500 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.