BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)–The economy is still struggling to recover from the pandemic and local businesses continue to feel the pinch.
“The month of July is not normally the month in Baton Rouge for restaurants but this July numbers are way higher than in 2019 numbers,” said Drusilla Seafood Owner Brad Zito.
Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) said spending is above pre-pandemic levels despite a stagnant unemployment rate.
“The fact that jobs are still flat and unemployment went up a little, but it’s not a great sign. We want to see June, July, and August. A big bump there,” said BRAC Senior Vice President of Business Intelligence Andrew Fitzgerald.
Although spending is up, other challenges still exist.
Local business owners said there are major problems like a lack of workers and an increase in food costs.
“We have never been able to hire back to full capacity like we were prior to COVID,” said Zito.
High food costs have forced some places to increase their menu prices.
“Beef, shrimp, crab meat, chicken. all of those are at an all time high right now,” he said.
Many believe the high demand from truck drivers is contributing to these costs.
“Trucking and commerce and different things like that is causing all of these things to create a perfect storm for things to go up,” Zito explained.
When will things get better?
“Above 400,000 jobs, once we as a metro area break that, then we are almost back to where we were pre-pandemic,” said Fitzgerald.
Weekly unemployment claims have been steady since May with about 10,000 total claims each week.