The strong labor market experienced in the Alexandria area in 2022 is beginning to soften, says Randall Dupont, Dean of the LSUA College of Business. The latest employment data from January show the Alexandria-Pineville metro area lost 1,817 jobs since November 2022 and nearly 2,200 from its peak in July 2022.
Several other factors are indicating weakness in the labor market, such as a rising unemployment rate, fewer job postings per unemployed, and a negative statewide economic index.
Dupont noted that for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Alexandria did not have the lowest unemployment rate among the state’s metro areas. Baton Rouge took top honors with an unemployment rate of 3.2% as the rate in Alexandria rose to 3.4% in January, up from 3.0% in December and 2.5% in November. Lafayette tied Alexandria at 3.4% while the Houma-Thibodaux and Lake Charles areas were at 3.5%.
Alexandria’s unemployment rate in January remained below the statewide unemployment rate of 3.6%. However, the unemployment rate for central Louisiana’s 11 parish region was above at 4.0%. Employment in Natchitoches fell in January by 196 from December with its unemployment rate rising to 4.2% from 3.6% a month earlier.
The labor market in the Alexandria MSA remains the tightest in the state, despite the rising unemployment rate. Nevertheless, there were fewer job postings per unemployed. The ratio fell from 4:1 to 3:1, indicating an easing in the labor market.
For the first time since September 2021, the Coincident Economic Activity Index for Louisiana turned negative in December. The economic index is set to match the trend in the gross state product. It includes four indicators: nonfarm payroll employment, the unemployment rate, average hours worked in manufacturing, and wages and salaries. In December 2022, the Index fell to 110.39 from 110.42 in November 2022. Although the decline was small, it was the first decline in nearly a year and a half and may indicate a slowing of the economy if the trend continues. Nevertheless, the Index ended 2022 up 3.4%
Dupont says consumer spending remains strong in central Louisiana as measured by sales tax revenue. February collections, which represent sales activity in January, exceeded previous year levels in all reporting jurisdictions. Nearly every jurisdiction was up on a year-to-date basis.
Cenla consumers continue to accelerate online purchasing. According to the Louisiana Remote Sellers Commission, online sales in central Louisiana were up 27% in January and February compared to the same period in 2022. Since August 2020 when remote sellers tax revenue collection started, $46.8 million in sales tax revenue has been collected from online sales in central Louisiana. In that time period, Rapides has collected $14.3 million in tax revenues, Vernon $5.4 million, Natchitoches $3.7 million, Evangeline $3.5 million, and Avoyelles $3.2 million.
The Central Louisiana 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 March 2023 CENLA Economic Dashboard, visit www.lsua.edu/dashboard.