BRAC economic indicators show region down nearly 21,000 jobs

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber today published its first COVID-19 economic indicator report of the year, which examines and assesses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the regional economy. 

“As the year wound to an end, the local economy continued to show signs of recovery, but also served a reminder that there’s still much work to be done,” says Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of business intelligence for BRAC, in a prepared statement. “There was decent job growth over-the-month, but we still saw an influx of new unemployment claims in the week after Christmas. Travel to work remained strong, but travel to recreational sites shrank, underscoring the trouble for businesses in the leisure and hospitality sector.”

The region’s hard-hit leisure and hospitality sector accounts for one-third of the total 20,800 jobs yet to be recovered. While the sector added 900 jobs from October to November, it faces continued government restrictions on reopening.

The newly revived Paycheck Protection Program may spur spending to aid both the hospitality sector and the region’s small businesses. Small business revenue remains down in Ascension Parish (-3.3%), and significantly down in Livingston (-31.5%) and East Baton Rouge (-21.9%) parishes.

Key findings from this month’s dashboard include: 

• Unemployment claims rose in the first week of 2021, but it is unclear whether this is due to job loss or the extension of unemployment benefits by the federal government.

• Hotel occupancy was higher than the last week in 2019, 37% to 34%, but revenues this year were approximately $100,000 lower for the week.

• Mobility was down for most destinations outside of the workplace, indicating that a large number of businesses are still open in the region. See the full report.