ALEXANDRIA - The Louisiana State University of Alexandria College of Business releases its January 2024 issue of the Central Louisiana Economic Dashboard.
Randall Dupont, Dean of the LSUA College of Business, says initial and continued unemployment claims in Louisiana were up in the past two months and bear watching in 2024. “Employment and consumer spending in central Louisiana have softened in recent months,” said Dupont. In the Alexandria MSA, employment fell by 468 in the past two months to 61,199 and was 1,768 below last year’s level. Statewide, the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7% in December from 3.5% in November. Alexandria’s unemployment rate remained unchanged, standing at 3.4%, lower than the 3.8% for the central Louisiana region. The bright spot in employment was Natchitoches where 508 jobs were added in the past two months, bringing the November 2023 employment level to 16,481.
Despite declining employment, Alexandria continues to remain the tightest labor market in the state. There were only two job postings for every unemployed in Alexandria, down from three and four postings a few months ago.
“The slowdown is evident in consumer spending,” Dupont notes. Seven of the twelve reporting jurisdictions, which includes parishes and select municipalities, had declines in sales tax collection in December. Sales tax collections in central Louisiana in December fell 3.5%, which represents activity in November. Nevertheless, spending in the region in December was 2.6% ahead of a year ago, and year-to-date spending is 3.5% ahead of 2022.
Dupont points to evidence that suggests higher interest rates and a softening labor market appear to be impacting vehicle sales and tourism. Sales tax collections on vehicles in central Louisiana were down 19% in December, while hotel occupancy tax collections were down 20%. However, spending in both categories in 2023 were near last year’s level or slightly ahead.
New businesses in Rapides were up 5% in 2023 to 420 compared to 399 last year and outpaced the rate of new business applications in Louisiana, which were down 1% for the year.
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 January 2024 CENLA Economic Dashboard, click here.
Written by Randall Dupont, Ph.D. | LSUA College fo Business
Photo credit - LSUA Strategic Communications