The Baton Rouge Area Chamber recently released a special economic indicator report, looking at the impact of COVID-19 on the regional economy.  

“We’re a full year into the pandemic, and it’s important to take stock of where we stand in our economic recovery. But because of the long lag for crucial employment data, we’re only able to see a clear picture of how the Capital Region’s economy has recovered through January,” says Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of business intelligence for BRAC, in a prepared statement. “While the region shed seasonal jobs between December and January, a broader lens reveals that the regional unemployment rate continues to be better than that of the state and the nation, and has now climbed to within 2% of pre-pandemic levels.”

While the seasonal job loss between December and January was expected, a significant revision in federal and state data related to unemployment in the leisure and hospitality sector was somewhat unexpected. The downward revision means there were fewer lower-wage workers without jobs than previously thought at the outset of the year, a scenario that likely has been improving as vaccination efforts continue and phase three went into effect.

That bright spot, combined with the Capital Region’s weekly unemployment claims falling below 9,000 for the first time since initial lockdowns in March of last year indicate that the steady improvement in jobs forecasts over the past year appears to have staying power. When the lagging data for March is released in early summer, it’s likely to show significant strengthening.

Key findings from the special edition dashboard include: 

• Jobs fell by 4,800 and unemployment rose from 6.4% to 6.7% from December to January, which was expected—the end of seasonal work generally causes job loss entering into the new year.

• Construction lost 900 jobs over the month, and is now the most negatively affected industry in the region, down 16% (-7,400 jobs) from the start of the pandemic.

• The Baton Rouge metro’s 6.7% unemployment rate is still lower than the national rate of 6.8%, and state rate of 7.6%. Individually, Ascension, East Feliciana, Livingston, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana are all below the national rate as well. See the report.