ALEXANDRIA, La – The Louisiana State University of Alexandria College of Business releases its May 2021 issue of the CENLA Economic Dashboard. “Stimulus funding continues to bolster central Louisiana’s economy,” said Dr. Randall Dupont, Dean of the LSUA College of Business.
“Consumer spending accelerated throughout Cenla in March,” continued Dupont. In Rapides, consumer spending was up 46% in March over February, and so far this year is up 21% over the same period last year. Sales tax revenue is used as a proxy of consumer spending. All central Louisiana parishes reported gains in sales tax revenue in March with increases ranging from 21% to 282%. The municipalities of Ball, Boyce, and Woodworth all experienced near 50% sales tax gains in March over the previous month.
Dupont is monitoring the growth of online sales through taxes collected by the Louisiana Sales and Use Tax Commission for Remote Sellers. “Online sales are an increasing source of revenue for central Louisiana,” he says. Cenla saw an 18% tax revenue increase from remote sellers in March over February in the 11 parish region. In Rapides, online sales tax revenue in March totaled $465,000 compared to $307,000 in February. Since August 2020, $10.4 million in sales tax revenue have been collected from online sales in central Louisiana, with Rapides collecting $3.1 million of that total.
Vehicle sales continue to demonstrate strength as they did much of last year, according to Dupont. Vehicle sales were up 30% in Rapides in March over the previous month and 55% and 62%, respectively, in Evangeline and St. Landry. Year-to-date vehicle sales tax revenue is up in all four parishes ranging 5% to 33%, and consumers are traveling more. Hotel occupancy in Rapides and Avoyelles increased over last month and are up for the year. In Rapides, occupancy increased 23% in March compared to February and 119% compared to a year ago. Avoyelles hotel occupancy tax is up 6% so far this year. Hotel occupancy tax revenue is a proxy for the hotel occupancy rate.
“The housing market remains strong going into the summer,” said Dupont. “Although lumber prices have risen 89% since last April, it has not dampened the housing market.” Homeownership in Louisiana peaked in 2008 at 73.5%, but stood at 69.5% in 2020 leaving room for continued market expansion. The Alexandria real estate market remains robust with active listings down and pending listings up in April over March. Active listings fell 60% and pending listings rose 53% in April from a year ago, while the number of days a house stayed on the market fell 22% from a year earlier.
The labor market continues to send mixed messages. A strong Cenla economy buoyed by federal stimulus spending combined with supplemental unemployment assistance have created a tight labor market, making it difficult for small businesses to hire. Louisiana’s unemployment rate fell 0.5% in March to 6.6% with central Louisiana having an average unemployment rate of 5.6%. Alexandria had the lowest unemployment rate among the state’s major metro areas for the eleventh straight month, falling 0.3% to 4.4% in March. Alexandria continues to have the tightest labor market in the state with job openings for every unemployed.
The CENLA Economic Dashboard is a service of the LSUA College of Business to help business and community leaders monitor the economic pulse of central Louisiana.
To view the May 2021 CENLA Economic Dashboard, click here.