As economic news continues to focus on the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ (BEA) recently released report further underscored Louisiana’s pre-coronavirus economic struggles.

In the final quarter of 2019, the BEA report on state Gross Domestic Products (GDP) showed the Louisiana economy grew an anemic 1.1 percent, ranking 43rd in the nation and last in the South. This result is consistent with the growth rates for the rest of 2019. The year started out with the optimistic result of a 3.8 percent 1st quarter growth, but this number was revised in the 2nd quarter to 0 percent once more data was collected.

Overall the Louisiana economy grew by only 1.3 percent throughout 2019, ranking 40th nationally and the lowest in the South outside of Kentucky.

Only once since 2016 has Louisiana matched the growth rate of the southern average. Every other year, the state has lagged behind by a full percentage point or more. In 2016, the Louisiana economy shrunk by almost 2 percent.

Given that our neighbors in Texas saw their economy grow at the fastest rate in the nation in 2019, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen thousands of Louisianans packing up their bags and moving to the Lone Star State.

This most recent BEA report becomes even less reassuring when you add in the fact that COVID-19 is likely going to shrink Louisiana’s economy to levels not seen since Hurricane Katrina.

After the worst of COVID-19 has passed, Louisiana legislators will have their work cut out for them upon their return to Baton Rouge. Fortunately, there are opportunities available to them to ensure the state is in the best position possible to help with the recovery. Lawmakers should start laying the groundwork tax reform, occupational licensing reform, and legal reform now, as these much-needed reforms can be implemented to help Louisianans get back to work after the crisis.