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Economic Outlook Positive For SWLA

Posted by: Eric Cormier on Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The year 2020 will never leave our collective memory.

In southwest Louisiana, COVID-19, Hurricane Laura, and Hurricane Delta have impacted every aspect of our individual and community lives.

Rebuilding and recovery are going to be the norm for the foreseeable future.

Our business owners and employees are facing professional and personal issues which are forcing them to adapt to a new normal.

At the same time all of us are wondering what is next?

Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable may help in managing the second-to-second, day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month ups and downs which are already associated with daily life. Such a mind-set is even more useful since we are contending with amped up problems and issues associated with COVID-19 and post-hurricane life.

While getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, it is beneficial to also think about the opportunities in our present business sector and in the future.

Several weeks ago, Dr. Loren Scott provided his annual insights regarding Louisiana’s economy. Scott’s 39th Louisiana Economic Outlook for 2021-2022 gets to the point in describing the moment, “Without question the crystal ball has never been foggier.”

Yet his initial assumptions about the future of the state’s economy are based on some educated insights.

“Our forecast for 2021-2022 is undergirded by the assumptions that (1) the national economy will recover about 72 percent of the losses in 2020 and will achieve 100 percent recovery sometime in 2022; (2) inflation and interest rates will remain low to aid the economy’s rebound; (3) oil prices will increase from $40 per barrel this year to $48 in 2022 (a most uncertain forecast); (4) natural gas prices will rise from $1.60 per MMBTU this year to $3.10 by 2022.”

What is his conclusion about the state’s economy based on the latter thoughts?

“Louisiana as a whole will leave 2020 with 105,400 fewer jobs than pre-COVID after suffering a devastating hit in 2020-H1 then recovering about 72 percent of those lost jobs in 2020-H2. By the end of 2022, the state will have recovered about 90 percent of those jobs. Summing up across all the regions…we project the state will recover 72,600 jobs in 2021 (plus 3.0 percent) and another 21,500 jobs in 2022 (plus 1.1 percent). This will leave Louisiana about 11,300 jobs short of recovering all jobs lost from COVID-19,” the report states.

For the Calcasieu/Cameron Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), Scott’s insights are encouraging. He notes the economic assets that are already here and others that are on the horizon.

“The Lake Charles MSA contains the state’s largest casino market and one of its largest industrial construction markets, both heavily impacted by COVID-19. The result is Lake Charles lost 7,000 jobs in 2020, the second worst hi (-6.1 percent) in the state. The good news is this MSA has $13 billion in LNG projects underway and potentially $58 billion in the wings. Lake Charles is expected to add 5,000 jobs (plus 4.7 percent) in 2021 and another 2,100 jobs (plus 1.9 percent) in 2022, fully recovering all the COVID-related jobs lost.”

Impacts of the hurricanes are still being researched. How the hurricane and COVID-19 recovery occur is going to be based on good planning in the public and private sector.

Scott’s projections are what the economy can be when health threats are negated and market factors start to resemble what observers are used to.

For our local business owners, who are trying to determine what to do now, the Alliance/Chamber first wants you to know support is available at the SEED Center located at 4310 Ryan St. in Lake Charles.

Our agency wants to thank businesses and people who have not given up, but continue working to survive in unprecedented times.

There are no guarantees, but if there is something we all can agree on, it is that small business owners are the backbone of the economy. As they go, the economy goes.

Easy answers are going to be hard to come by in the coming days. The fabric of our community is based on people who are tough, solid in character, and flexible. We know how to see a problem and work it to finality.

Our moment is stressful, but our economic future can be bright. Let us remember our past wins and use those to propel the community to a stronger, resilient and prosperous future.

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