Rural parishes bounce back post-pandemic, metropolitan areas slower to recover

Matt Fannin, Miller, V. Todd

(12/09/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — While state gross domestic product (GDP) adjusted for inflation (real GDP) had only recovered to approximately 93% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021, several Louisiana parishes outpaced the statewide average — and many of these were in rural areas.

Twenty-five percent of Louisiana parishes’ economies witnessed higher real GDP in 2021 compared to 2019 based on recently released datasets from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis that were reviewed by LSU AgCenter economist Matt Fannin.

The parish with the greatest growth was rural Bienville Parish, with 126% of its 2019 real GDP by the end of 2021. In fact, 11 of the 16 parishes with higher GDP were rural parishes with no sizable cities (noncore parishes) or with small cities (micropolitan parishes).

Fannin said while it is true these parishes exceeded pre-pandemic GDP at the end of 2021, several of them never witnessed any reduction in GDP, but grew both in 2020 and in 2021.

“Many of these parishes were less dependent on sectors of the economy that were hardest hit such as leisure and hospitality but were more dependent on forest product sectors such as wood product manufacturing that saw gains statewide,” Fannin said.

The timber industry helped many of these rural regions — especially northwest and west-central Louisiana — during the pandemic years, said Jinggang Guo, a fellow AgCenter economist.

“In 2021, pine sawtimber harvest experienced an overall increase that benefitted most of these parishes,” Guo said.

Collectively, the rural noncore parishes were 102% above their pre-pandemic level by the end of 2021. Rural micropolitan parishes with small cities had almost recovered reaching 99% of their pre-pandemic inflation adjusted GDP. In additional to forest products, some of these parishes were also relatively more dependent on food product manufacturing, which also showed statewide gains from pre-pandemic levels.

Metropolitan areas of Louisiana have been the slowest to recover, only reaching 92% of their pre-pandemic GDP. Several reasons exist for their slower recovery.

Some of the sluggishness for recovery by the end of 2021 was due to these areas being more dependent on industries that took time to recover. For example, the New Orleans metropolitan region had only recovered 91% of their GDP as it addressed the slow-but-steady recovery of its leisure and hospitality sectors.

Another big hit to GDP in metropolitan parishes was the 2020 and 2021 hurricane seasons. For example, the Lake Charles metropolitan area had only recovered 81% of its pre-pandemic GDP by 2021.

While these trends are early snapshots of the recovery, when all the data are collected and reported on the 2022 calendar year, more insights will be gained by about how Louisiana’s regions recovered.

Increased oil prices will likely benefit more of the parishes depending on mining and mining support activities for their economic growth.

As hurricane recovery picks up steam and interest in Louisiana’s tourism industry accelerates, many of these metropolitan parishes are likely to reach — and possibly exceed — the pandemic recovery seen in rural Louisiana to date.

More information about how your region recovered is available in an online interactive report that highlights how GDP has changed in Louisiana over the past two decades. It can be found at

12/9/2022 5:23:52 PM
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