Nearly 63% of business leaders who responded to a BRAC survey said they expect their company will post higher revenues in 2022 than they did this year, and almost 42% said they expect to add employees in the upcoming year.
The numbers are “pretty optimistic,” BRAC economic research and policy analyst Jake Polansky said during a Tuesday afternoon presentation of the organization’s annual economic outlook. The results are based on a survey earlier this fall of more than 140 businesses.
In comparison, just under 29% of the businesses that participated in the 2020 survey anticipated higher revenues in the upcoming year, and 19% expected to hire more workers.
While business express growing optimism about the Baton Rouge economy, they also have significant concerns. The biggest issue is workforce — specifically a shortage of job applicants and a lack of candidates with the education or experience needed.
There were 44,000 open jobs in metro Baton Rouge as of last month, said Andrew Fitzgerald, BRAC’s senior vice president of business intelligence. At the same time, there were 15,000 unemployed people in the region.
If just half of the open jobs were filled, the number of people working in the region would blow past pre-pandemic levels. There were 413,000 people working in early 2020; the number bounced back to 397,100 in October.
Despite the hiring difficulties, the number of people working in the region is projected to top pre-pandemic levels by 2023. According to forecasts from economist Loren Scott, there should be 415,300 people working in 2023.
“The bottom line is that the Baton Rouge area is well on its way to full economic recovery,” BRAC President Adam Knapp said. “We are experiencing dynamic economic growth.”
Contributing to the growth is the record-setting number of economic development wins posted in the region during 2021. There were 17 projects announced in 2021, representing 1,865 new jobs and $7.8 billion in capital investment.
Some of the economic development wins include the $4.5 billion clean energy complex Air Products plans to build in Ascension Parish, $1.3 billion Shintech plans to spend on its manufacturing and package facilities in Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes and the $200 million fulfillment center Amazon is building at the former Cortana Mall site.