Small business employment and residential vehicle traffic to retail outlets and recreation in Baton Rouge have risen since a stay-at-home order in Louisiana was loosened in mid-May, a report shows.
Small business employment still sits significantly lower than in January before the coronavirus restrictions were imposed, while traffic patterns to retail outlets and recreation are getting closer to pre-pandemic levels.
“As we begin Phase 2 of reopening on Friday, we expect these stabilization trends to continue,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of business intelligence for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.
Residential vehicle traffic to retail outlets and recreation improved across the Baton Rouge metro area from being down 30% two weeks ago below pre-pandemic levels to being off by only 6% last week.
Fitzgerald said that's "a trend we’d anticipate translating to greater consumer spending in the coming weeks as residents will have more places to go.”
Hourly employment at small businesses rose several percentage points in East Baton Rouge and Livingston, but nearly 7% in Ascension, which the report said is approaching pre-pandemic levels.
New weekly unemployment claims in the Baton Rouge metro area have narrowed to 4,278 first-time claims during the week that ended May 23, compared to a peak of 18,872 claims for the week ending April 4.
Commuting was still down 28% from a year ago, not a significant rebound after Phase I reopening began. Many office employees are still working remotely.
Weekday traffic volume on U.S. 190 is up 37% in May from a year ago and increased by 26% compared to April this year. Traffic on Interstate 110 increased by 24% over April, but is still down 25% from a year ago.
Retail fuel sales in the Baton Rouge metro area were down 27% between May 25 and May 31 compared to last year and down 14% statewide. Commercial and industrial fuel sales in Baton Rouge was up by 2% over the year compared to down 25% statewide.
Hotel occupancy has improved as well. About 58.4% of rooms in the Baton Rouge metro area were booked between May 17 and May 23 in 2019 and 42.5% of rooms were booked during the same time period this year. That's the highest hotel occupancy has been since March 21, having dipped as low as 21% in mid-April.
Hotel revenue is still down. Hotel's collected $3.5 million in 2019 compared to $1.5 million last month between May 17 and May 23.