In recent months, COVID-19 has spurred many organizations to quickly shift their employment landscape. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber created BR Works – a regional job board – soon after Governor Edwards’ March Stay at Home order to connect community members who have experienced layoffs and furloughs to businesses that are hiring to meet increased demand. Along the way, the data BR Works has compiled has revealed useful – if incomplete – information about the Capital Region’s COVID-19 workforce needs.
According to the Metro Recovery Index recently released by the Brookings Institute, which measures the impact of the COVID-19 recession for both large and mid-sized U.S. metropolitan areas, Baton Rouge ranks 11th in the country and second out of large metros for job postings by employers. While the number of jobs is down 10% since the beginning of the pandemic, this data suggests that jobs are slowly returning, and more quickly than in many places across the U.S. Baton Rouge had 4.1% job growth between May and June alone.
Due to its nature as a voluntary reporting database, the information gleaned from the BR Works job board is incomplete, but the graphs below do paint a picture of those jobs and skills that are most in-demand during this time, and to what industries those who are seeking work might turn their attention.
Of over 1,400 job postings collected on BR Works, more than half (715) of the most in-demand occupations are office management and administrative positions. Sales occupations and customer service representative positions account for 23.3% of jobs collected, and healthcare jobs – including registered nurses – come in at just over 17%.
Understanding that as the health concerns of COVID-19 become more controlled and consumer confidence begins to rebuild, some industries will recover more slowly than others. For those unemployed or furloughed workers whose former positions may not be available again in the short term, BRAC has analyzed not only the jobs that are most in-demand, but also the skills that are most in-demand. BRAC broke down the in-demand skills into buckets of Knowledge Skills and Technology Skills.
The office management and administration openings will rely heavily on the Knowledge Skills of customer and personal service, for instance. Software skills are also high in demand, with email software knowledge making up 23% of in-demand technology skills. These skills are critical for jobs spanning a gamut of industries from healthcare practitioners to technical and management occupations. The data collected not only for in demand jobs, but also for in demand skills, can help guide those currently unemployed back into the workforce. By starting with an assessment of skills, individuals may find another industry in which they may have an existing foundation.
While job growth is rising, unemployment is still at an all-time high. Out-of-work citizens may be looking to upskill or reskill themselves to become more marketable in a post-COVID job market. Community colleges and other training providers in the Capital Region have short-term training opportunities available, and BRAC is compiling and prioritizing to identify those that have the best chance of helping unemployed Capital Region residents seek more resilient job opportunities.
In the meantime, BRAC and others will be looking to the state to produce a short- and long-term industry and occupation projection that accounts for the effects of COVID-19. These types of projects, typically annually produced by the Louisiana Workforce Commission, guide how public and private entities invest workforce training funds, which is critical if Louisiana is going to quickly help as many unemployed people as possible find a new career.