Data points to stabilization as economy gradually reopens

Baton Rouge, La. (May 19, 2020) – The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) today released its weekly COVID-19 economic indicator dashboard that examines and assesses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the regional economy. The weekly dashboard is available online at brac.org/recovery.

The week over week trendlines indicate that the regional economy has begun to show signs of stabilization, with more people staying at hotels, the rate of job loss receding, and increased mobility. Those positive indicators are expected to continue with the state entering Phase One of reopening. Consumer spending remains an area of concern due to its impact on local and state sales tax revenues, as does the disproportionate unemployment numbers of hourly workers. In several Capital Region parishes and the state overall, hourly employment at small businesses is down more than 50 percent.

“The dramatic shifts in employment makes aligning education and training opportunities with the jobs of a post-COVID economy critical, especially for those unemployed hourly workers who are facing the expiration of federal unemployment benefits,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of business intelligence for BRAC. “In the near term, it is also important that leadership pursue policies that encourage spending so that local and state governments are able to recapture lost sales tax revenue, which has been significantly impacted by the pandemic.”

Key takeaways from this week’s dashboard include:

  • New data on consumer spending indicate that through the month of April, the region’s largest parishes saw a significant drop in spending, although it has begun to trend upwards;
  • Small business employment data indicate that hourly employment at these establishments is down over 50 percent in East Baton Rouge and Livingston;
  • While retail vehicle fuel sales at gas stations continue to lag 2019 sales over the year, they are increasing week-by-week as parts of the economy have reopened;
  • Initial unemployment claims for the Capital Region for the week ending May 9 were the lowest in two months, though still 20-25 times higher than the normal pre-pandemic week;
  • Hotel occupancy continues to rise, coinciding with increased travel to the region because of legislative session.

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.

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