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Louisiana economy recovering from pandemic faster than expected, experts say

Updated: Feb. 1, 2021 at 5:43 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Baton Rouge economist Loren Scott says the state’s economy is recovering from the pandemic faster than expected.

Scott says 69 percent of the 272,000 people who lost a job during the pandemic’s height in April 2020 have returned to work. In Baton Rouge, more than two-thirds of laid-off workers are back.

“In other words, we’re on a good track,” Scott said. “If we get the vaccine out there and people use it more and more, then I think you’re going to see us recover strongly.”

Scott says the capital region is protected from some of the economic hardship other parts of the state have seen. Baton Rouge is home to Louisiana’s largest employer: Louisiana’s government.

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“Generally speaking, state government has been a rock during this downturn,” Scott said, noting a strange job dip in December that will likely deflate employment numbers.

Baton Rouge is also expecting a combined $8 billion investment from chemical plants in the near future, and will not be as harshly hit by new restrictions on the oil and gas industry. The capital region is also less dependent on flailing tourism industry than New Orleans.

“Baton Rouge is a different animal... If you’re in Houma or Lafayette, you’ve got to be worried right now.”

Scott says he and other economists expected 52 percent of jobs lost in April to return by the year’s end, making the actual numbers a 17 percent improvement over their predictions.

He says the surprise comeback is driven by the retail industry, which has now completely recovered.

“Now, the vaccine is out and we’re getting shots. Still have a lot to go, but we’ll probably reach herd immunity a lot faster than we anticipated back then.”

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