The Capital region was battered by the economic recession spurred by the coronavirus pandemic and the public health restrictions which engulfed the world economy for the past six months.
But the Baton Rouge metro is the only region across the state projected to recover all the job losses by 2022, according to the Louisiana Economic Outlook. The annual report is penned by long-time economist and LSU professor emeritus Loren Scott and LSU Center for Energy Studies associate professor Greg Upton. The report relies on state but also national data in combination with interviews of industry executives about future plans. Never, the authors say, has there been so much uncertainty in 39 years of penning the report.
HOW MANY JOBS WERE LOST?
The Baton Rouge metro lost 52,800 jobs, or 12.7% of its employment by the end of April, about one month after the March restrictions were imposed.
Louisiana mandated an emergency stay-at-home order imposed for public health reasons to curb the spread of the coronavirus, while global market forces on corporations with U.S. Gulf Coast operations were impacted by lack of consumer demand for petrochemical products such as jet fuel from the state’s refineries.
Statewide, there were 273,200 jobs lost since April 2019 during the first month of the pandemic restrictions, sinking employment to 1.73 million jobs.
As of July, there were 1.83 million jobs across Louisiana, which is a recovery of 18,800 jobs between June and July, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
The Baton Rouge metro had already recovered 4,500 jobs between June and July, but was still down 26,700 jobs over the year.
HOW MANY JOBS MAY COME BACK?
In 2019, Baton Rouge had 412,400 jobs in the metro area but by the end of 2020 there are only expected to be 390,600 jobs in the market as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
By 2021, Baton Rouge is expected to grow to 407,900 jobs and one year after that to 413,700 jobs. The Baton Rouge job shrinkage is projected to be 5.3% by the end of 2020, but have a growth rate of 4.4% in 2021 and another 1.4% in 2022.
WHICH INDUSTRIES SHOULD BE WATCHED?
Leisure and hospitality alongside services sector jobs were hit in Baton Rouge during the recession, but losses at casinos and industrial construction businesses were major drivers.
Industrial construction employment was already on a downward trend. It had lost 5,000 jobs, or roughly 9.1% of employment, in 2019 during what was described as a "lull" between major petrochemical industry projects.
After the coronavirus pandemic began, many of the final investment decisions by corporations looking to build or expand plants in Louisiana were postponed until 2021. Petrochemical manufacturers and refineries alike slashed jobs to meet reduced demand as travelers stopped moving around the world. Maintenance projects at industrial sites were also largely delayed.
Some industrial plants under construction hit the pause button, such as the $1.4 billion Methanex plant in Ascension Parish. By April, employment in the construction industry in Baton Rouge was down by 9,800 jobs, or 19.1%, according to state data.
L’Auberge Casino and Hotel in Baton Rouge laid off more than 160 workers in Baton Rouge in mid-August, according to state records. By October, Stupp Corp. in Baton Rouge expects to lay off 300 workers and another 75 workers at its sister pipe-coating facility, records show.
In general though, the economic snapshot has improved in the region. Construction job losses in the Baton Rouge metro area between June and July were flat. Over the year, the region still lost 3,600 jobs but this shows some pause in the downward spiral.
Leisure and hospitality sector jobs in Baton Rouge recovered, with 2,200 jobs added between June and July but remain down 8,900 jobs over the year.
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