The Louisiana State University of Alexandria College of Business has released its September 2020 issue of the CENLA Economic Dashboard. “Positive gains continue to be seen in employment, housing, travel, and small business applications,” said Dr. Randall Dupont, Dean of the LSUA College of Business and author of the monthly Dashboard.
Initial unemployment claims in Central Louisiana fell 57% in August from July while continued claims fell 11%. For the fourth straight month, Alexandria’s unemployment rate of 7.4% was the lowest among the state’s major metro areas, well below the state’s 9.9% rate. The July unemployment rate among Central Louisiana’s nine parishes stood at 8.6%, with La Salle Parish having the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 5.9%. Rapides and Grant parishes saw unemployment rates of 7.4% and 7.3%, respectively. Furthermore, Alexandria’s labor market continues to be the tightest in the state with only 1.03 unemployed persons per job openings in July compared to 2.5 statewide and 3.5 nationally.
A number of indicators point to a strong housing marketing in the Alexandria metro area, said Dean Dupont. Since January, active listings on Realtor.com are down 37%, pending listings are up 71%, median days on the market are down 42%, and the median listing price is up 22%. Low interest rates are driving sales, says Dupont. However, residential construction in Central Louisiana is mixed. While August home building permits were up 6% in in Rapides and 123% in Alexandria over last August, residential construction permits overall in central Louisiana are down 20% for the same period. Mortgage delinquencies are becoming an issue statewide, said Dupont. The financial hardship created by the pandemic has pushed mortgage delinquencies in Louisiana to 11.8% in July, the second highest in the nation. The financial impact of Hurricane Laura on homeowners will likely to worsen the delinquency rate.
Total passenger traffic at Alexandria International airport (AEX) averaged 59% of traffic last August compared to only 29% nationwide. AEX passenger traffic in August was 5,815, up 335% from its low of 1,334 in April. AEX passenger traffic has increased every month since April.
Applications for small businesses in Louisiana continue to outperform last year which is a positive sign for the economy in the coming months, Dupont added. Through the end of August, 58,160 business applications have been filed in Louisiana compared to 39,300 for the same period in 2019, representing a 48% increased. Of that total, 16,540 of the applications filed have a high-propensity for turning into a business with a payroll, including 7,890 which are already planning to pay wages. Another positive sign at the state level is the 27% increase in exploration rigs in Louisiana since early August. This is the first significant increase this year.
Local consumer spending as measured by sales tax revenues was down from 3% to 20% in July compared to June in all nine reporting parish and city jurisdictions. On the other hand, local spending in July exceeded July 2019 levels in all jurisdictions. Vehicle sales continue to outperform on a monthly, year-over-year, and year-to-date basis in all four reporting jurisdictions except for Alexandria which had a 10% decline in July sales following an extraordinary 52% monthly gain in June.
The CENLA Economic Dashboard is a service of LSUA to help business and community leaders monitor the economic pulse of central Louisiana.
To view the September 10 CENLA Economic Dashboard, click here.