by Eric Peterson, director of the Pelican Center for Technology and Innovation Policy

This week is a somber anniversary, as it marks one year since Americans were forced to lockdown across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, after a year of health and economic devastation caused by the virus and subsequent government lockdowns, where does the economy stand?

According to the most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of total employed workers is down 9.5 million, or 6.2 percent, from February 2020. Additionally, 13.3 million people reported in February that they had been unable to work, because their employer closed or cut hours due to the pandemic. Even with some better economic news and deployment of the vaccine, many Americans are still struggling.

Looking at Louisiana’s labor market, the number of new unemployment claims was just short of 5,700, while there were almost 49,000 Louisianans collecting unemployment insurance. During this time last year, less than 2,000 people filed for unemployment and only 12,000 were collecting unemployment insurance.

In short, the last year has brought with it a lot of economic pain.

But as spring inches ever closer, so too is better economic news on the horizon.

The leisure and hospitality industry, one of the hardest hit by the lockdowns, added 355,000 jobs in February, with almost 80 percent of those coming from restaurants or bars. More vacations and less restrictions have likely been a major cause of this increase. Meanwhile, Louisiana continues to trend in the right direction, as both the number of new applicants and those on unemployment have decreased for more than a month.

As Louisiana passes more than a million first-time vaccinations, restrictions on businesses and other important aspects of daily life are being repealed. But even if all restrictions were removed, as with Texas and Mississippi, there is still more work to be done. Important issues like tax reform, removing barriers to work, and embracing innovation need to priorities for lawmakers in the upcoming session.