BRAC's 2023 Economic Outlook
The last few years have been tough, especially for one of our largest sectors, but our analysis provides quite a few reasons for optimism regarding the Capital Region economy
Yesterday we released our annual Economic Outlook, the region’s most comprehensive overview of the state of our regional economy. The full report is available here, and I’d encourage everyone to take a look, but there are some narratives and themes I’d like to highlight.
First, we found that regional higher education institutions hit their highest enrollments on record this fall with nearly 59,000 students. Not only is this positive news in a vacuum, but it presents a potential solution to a major problem in the region – workforce. In a survey of more than 200 business leaders in the Baton Rouge metro area, workforce was identified as the number one obstacle this year and going forward. The data backs this up – there are about 30,000 unique job postings in the region and only 11,500 residents unemployed and looking for work, so about 2.5 job openings for every job seeker. Retaining talent that we’re educating and training in-region represents the lowest-hanging fruit in terms of alleviating this pain-point. We’ve written before about how businesses can help retain these students after graduation.
Another theme we saw is that the depressed construction market is being felt throughout the economy, but there is reason to believe there will be a meaningful rebound in 2023. Currently, about one of every five unemployed residents are from the construction sector. This is especially impactful, as average wages for the sector are about $75,000 annually, significantly above regional median household income. After years of consistent gains in our median household income in the region, 2020 and 2021 saw dips that peer cities did not, and the loss of nearly 15,000 high-paying jobs certainly bears some responsibility.
However, on the economic development side, we’ve seen dozens of major industrial projects announced over the past two years, about $11 billion worth of capital investment. Engineering firms locally are packed to the gills with front-end work, and construction firms have been flooded with projects to bid upon. Regarding another boom in industrial construction hiring, everything leads to a “when” rather than an “if.”
The report has a lot of other good data. As a region, we’ve had three consecutive years of positive migration, with nearly 9,000 more people moving in than out in 2021 alone. More than 2,700 net new business establishments are in the region than before the pandemic. Business leaders are optimistic about increased revenue and hiring in 2023. Take a look, and feel free to ask questions or give feedback.
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 Louisiana State University, Southern University, Baton Rouge Community College, River Parishes Community College, and Franciscan University
 The flood-impacted year of 2016 is the one exception