ALEXANDRIA – The Louisiana State University of Alexandria College of Business releases its October 2021 issue of the CENLA Economic Dashboard. “The impact of the pandemic’s fourth wave is evident in the latest economic data,” says Dr. Randall Dupont, Dean of the LSUA College of Business.
“The good news is the worse of the fourth wave appears to be over,” says Dupont, “but its impact on the economy in August and September is clear, especially in employment and consumer spending.” The labor force dropped by near a thousand in August which caused the unemployment rate to drop sharply and the labor market to tighten to its worse level in years. As a result, Alexandria’s unemployment rate fell from 4.3% in July to 3.8% in August causing the labor market to tighten severely. In April 2020, the Alexandria MSA had two job openings for every three unemployed. By August of this year, there were nearly three job openings for each unemployed.
Consumer spending in August, which was reflected in sales tax collections in September, was down in eight of the ten jurisdictions reporting, says Dupont. Catahoula saw a -32% fall in tax revenue, while Rapides experienced a -13% decline. Only Evangeline and Avoyelles saw gains. While online sales in Cenla rose 1% for the month, online sales in Rapides fell -4%. All jurisdictions, however, reported sales tax revenue increases over August 2020. Inventory issues continue to plague the auto industry. September vehicle inventory levels in Louisiana were down -68% from a year ago, while new auto sales were down -26%. Locally, vehicle sales in September were down -50% in Avoyelles and -4% and -9% in Rapides and Evangeline, respectively. Nevertheless, local year-to-date comparisons of vehicle sales remain very positive.
An adverse impact can also be seen in travel data as well. Gasoline sales in Louisiana fell -6% in July from the previous month, welcome center visitors fell -55% in July, and air passenger traffic at AEX decline from 103% to 88% of the 2019 level in September.
Business applications in Louisiana fell -5% in September, but are still running 22% ahead of last year. In Rapides, the number of new businesses established in September fell -34% from August, but new business creation in the parish remains 28% higher year-to-date over 2020.
Dupont expects the economy to improve as we go into the holiday season. However, supply chain issues may worsen as consumers ramp up demand amid a worker shortage, he says.
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 October 2021 CENLA Economic Dashboard, click here.