ALEXANDRIA – The Louisiana State University of Alexandria College of Business releases its September 2021 issue of the CENLA Economic Dashboard. “New business growth and record employment are signs of a strengthening economy in the central Louisiana,” says Dr. Randall Dupont, Dean of the LSUA College of Business. New business applications in Rapides in 2020 grew 30% over 2019, totaling 1,488 applications according to Census Bureau data, marking the highest number of new business applications in Rapides since 2005. However, not all business applications result in business formation, according to Dupont. “That’s why support organizations like the Small Business Development Center, hosted by LSUA and located at the Central Louisiana Regional Chamber of Commerce, are much needed,” Dupont added. “It takes six to 12 months of working with an entrepreneur in the startup phase to adequately form a business,” says Evelyn Jones, SBDC business consultant. The trend in business application in Rapides is reflected statewide. Through August of this year, the number of new business applications in Louisiana grew 27% over 2020 and 90% over 2019. Year-to-date, new businesses established in Rapides are up 36% over 2020. While the recent wave of Covid-19 cases dominates the news, the economic impact has not yet shown up in consumer spending, says Dupont. The decline in air passenger traffic is the most visible sign but has been minimal through August. Hotel occupancy, consumer spending, and gasoline sales data reflect activity from July and earlier and continue to show little sign of weakening as the number of cases increased in July. The labor market in the Alexandria metro area continues to tighten with the employment level the reaching new highs recently. Employment in the Alexandria MSA in July 2021 reached the highest level in five years with 61,950 employed, an increase of 1,295 over June. Just 14 months earlier, Alexandria bottomed at a pandemic low of 55,588 employed. Strong employment growth caused the unemployment rate in Cenla to fall to 5.4% in July compared to 6.3% for the state. Rapides reported a 4.3% unemployment rate, well below the state and Cenla rates. Hiring pressures tightened again in the Alexandria MSA and statewide. Currently, there are two job openings for every unemployed in Alexandria, while the state average is nearing one opening for every unemployed.
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