BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) is feeling good about what the economy will look like in 2022. In BRAC’s Economic Outlook report for the year, it showed Baton Rouge is bouncing back from the pandemic.
One of the key issues the agency is trying to address is dealing with the labor shortage and keeping young professionals in the capital region. Baton Rouge has consistently been losing people ages 25-44 for years. BRAC said people are not aware of the variety of jobs available. Right now there are 44,000 available jobs but only 15,000 people applying for unemployment.
BRAC believes there is some quality of life aspects that can be improved like having more events and things to do to bring in the younger population. They’re also looking to bolster diversity in management positions where there is a clear discrepancy.
“Fix the awareness of the jobs out there but also make it more attractive with better amenities for young people,” said Senior Vice President of Business and Intelligence Andrew Fitzgerald.
In a survey sent to capital region businesses, one of the top obstacles addressed was traffic. BRAC is encouraged by major infrastructure projects being addressed in the near future by state legislation as well as federal money from the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
While many industries have returned to normal, some face ongoing challenges created by the pandemic. Fitzgerald said retail and restaurants struggle to pay competitive wages and face having a smaller staff.
“But even you’re seeing industrial construction as there was a total pause in everything and now a backlog of major projects,” Fitzgerald said.
One construction company has seen everything from delayed projects, to labor needs, to having to navigate the material costs. Norisha Kirts-Glover, the owner of NRK Construction, said with construction really picking up this year they are looking for qualified staff as well as dealing with materials being in short supply.
“We are in the process of trying to hire superintendents since we have additional projects that have come on our plate. The thing is we’re competing with everyone for superintendents,” Kirts-Glover said.
Overall, BRAC anticipates the area to return to pre-pandemic job numbers by 2023.