LSUA CENLA Economic Dashboard for October Released

Oct 13, 2020, 10:27 AM
Significant gains in construction and employment

The Louisiana State University of Alexandria College of Business has released its October 2020 issue of the CENLA Economic Dashboard.

“While consumer spending is down due to Hurricane Laura and a reduced federal supplement to unemployment compensation, significant gains have been made in construction and employment,” said Dr. Randall Dupont, Dean of the LSUA College of Business and author of the monthly Dashboard.

Construction permits valuing $4.7 million were issued in Rapides Parish in September compared to $2.8 million in August, an increase of 71%. Most of the increase came from residential construction, said Dupont. Residential construction permits were up 268% in Alexandria from $629,000 in August to $2.3 million in September. Pineville saw a similar increase with overall permits up 311% from $1 million in August to $4.2 million in September.

For the fifth straight month, the Alexandria MSA had the lowest unemployment rate in the state among major metropolitan areas at 6.1%, with a state averaging 7.6%. LaSalle again had the lowest unemployment in the state at 4.7%. Alexandria continues to have the tight labor market. In August, there were 4,800 job openings in the Alexandria MSA and only 3,900 unemployed. That’s a ratio of less than one-to-one and compares favorably to the statewide ratio of two unemployed for every opening. Statewide total employment is 7%, or 133,000 jobs, below January’s level with leisure, hospitality, and education accounting for 52% of the reduction.

In Central Louisiana, initial unemployment claims in September rose 9% from August largely due to Hurricane Laura. The week following the hurricane, initial claims rose 565 from 703 to 1,348. However, by the week of October 3rd initial claims fell to 597, the lowest level since the start of the pandemic. Likewise, initial unemployment claims in Louisiana increased 33% in September to 18,006 from 13,560 in August, while continued claims fell 13% in September. Continued claims reached a new pandemic low on October 3rd with 195,424 filings.

The housing market continues be strong in the Alexandria metro area, said Dean Dupont. Compared to September of last year, active listings are down 51%, pending listings are up 56%, median days on the market are down 24%, and the median listing price is up 22%. “These are all signs of a strong market and low interest rates are driving sales,” said Dupont.

Travel related measures were also strong in August, with hotel occupancy increasing 49% over July as a result of the hurricane. While the hurricane may have helped boost occupancy, year-to-date hotel occupancy remains 24% below last year. Total passenger traffic at Alexandria International airport (AEX) averaged 65% of traffic last September compared to only 32% nationwide. AEX had the highest percentage passenger throughput rate in the state when compared with 2019.

“Applications for small businesses in Louisiana continue to outperform last year which is a positive sign for the economy to grow in the coming months,” Dupont added. Through the end of September, 66,930 business applications have been filed in Louisiana compared to 44,000 for the same period in 2019, representing a 52% increase. Of that total, 19,020 of the applications filed have a high-propensity for turning into a business with a payroll, including 9,100 which are already planning to pay wages.

All eight jurisdictions in Central Louisiana reported lower tax revenues in September, reflecting lower consumer spending in August. Rapides reported a 9.2% decrease while Alexandria saw a 7.7% decrease. The lower consumer spending and thus tax revenue is a result of the reduction in the federal supplement to unemployment compensation and the impact of Hurricane Laura.

Year-to-date revenue for most jurisdictions remains comparable to last year’s level, with the exception of Pineville which is up 13.4% for the year. Vehicle sales in Rapides, Evangeline, and St. Landry underperformed in August by 16% to 26% compared to July and following an extraordinary summer.

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 October edition the CENLA Economic Dashboard, click here.

 

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