The LSUA College of Business Economic Dashboard for June

June 23, 2022 CENLA Economic Dashboard
In mid-May nearly every parish in Louisiana was at a low level of risk for Covid, other than Orleans. Cases of
Covid in the New Orleans are now moderate, but the Shreveport area is now rated high risk. Most of central Louisiana
is rated at a moderate risk level with uptrends in Regions 6 & 7 as shown in the initial cases and reinfections charts.
For the period from June 2 – 8, Louisiana had a positivity rate of 13.6% compared to 11.4% in Region 6 and 10.1%
in Region 7. In mid-May, the positivity rates stood at 1.7% and 3.0%, respectively. 18-29 year-olds and 30-39 yearolds are currently leading the uptrend.

In April, the Alexandria metro area set another post-pandemic high in employment, the fourth record high in five
months. In April 2022, 63,456 were employed in the Alexandria metro area, an increase of 229 from March.
Alexandria’s employment level is 7,868 above the pandemic low of 55,588 reached in May 2020. In April 2022,
16,285 were employed in Natchitoches parish. While this level exceeds the preliminary March 2022 level of 16,257,
the final March employment figure was revised upward to 16,461, therefore showing a slight decline in April.
At 2.6%, the Alexandria MSA unemployment rate in April was the lowest among the state’s major metro areas.
Unemployment in Natchitoches parish fell to 3.0% in April from 3.2% in March. April’s 3.2% unemployment rate for
central Louisiana compared favorably to the state’s 3.5% rate.
Statewide the unemployed to job openings ratio is 0.52 meaning there are two openings for each unemployed.
Alexandria’s status as the tightest labor market in the state has not changed. Locally, there are four job openings for
each unemployed.

Sales tax data are used to measure changes in consumer spending. Sales taxes collected in May reflect sales activity
in April. Consumer spending in April when compared to March was down in all twelve Cenla jurisdictions reporting,
with declines ranging from -6% to -31%. However, YTD all jurisdiction except Catahoula are ahead of last year. April
vehicle sales are mixed across all three time horizons when compared to March.
Online shopping in central Louisiana in April fell -9% from March, but is up 17% over a year ago. Year-to-date
every jurisdiction in central Louisiana is reporting higher online sales, with the region averaging a 13% YTD increase.

Hotel occupancy, as measured by the hotel tax, was mixed for Avoyelles, Rapides, and Vernon. Only Natchitoches
saw month-over-month (M/M), year-over-year (Y/Y), and year-to-day (YTD) increases in April. Vernon posted a 34%
gain while Natchitoches posted 12%.
Nationally, air passenger traffic in May 2022 edged up 2.5% over April, but remains -10% below May 2019, the last
“normal” timeframe for comparison purposes. For the first five months of 2022, US air passenger traffic is -14%
below 2019. Gasoline sales data for Louisiana lags two months. Gasoline sales in Louisiana in March, the latest
available data, were up 0.3%, but -3% below March 2021. Nevertheless, YTD sales in March are running 3% higher
than a year ago. The impact of higher prices on gasoline sales is becoming evident, but not substantial through March.
However, sustained higher prices going into the Summer are expected to lower sales

Because of the volatility of monthly data, year-to-date permit (YTD) valuations present a clearer picture of local
construction. Permit data for the City of Alexandria was unavailable this month. So far in 2022, Pineville has seen a 112%
increase in permit valuations. while Avoyelles has increased 107%. Natchitoches parish and the City of Natchitoches have
year-to-date valuations up 64% and 24%, respectively. Evangeline permits are down -41% year-to-date. Rapides’
underperformance is largely the result of an outstanding 2021, which is unlikely to be repeated in 2022. Otherwise Rapides’
permits are comparable to previous years.

The May 2022 the US Lumber Price Index increased 2.7% from April. April 2022 prices marked was the first decline
after six consecutive monthly increases. Currently, the Index stands -13% below a year ago. Housing data for Alexandria,
Natchitoches, and Ft. Polk/Leesville are now included in the Dashboard.
The median and average listing price of homes are up in Alexandria, Leesville/Ft. Polk, and Natchitoches on a monthly
basis. Active listings climbed significantly in May in the Alexandria market, but fell considerably in Natchitoches. Median
days on the market rose in all three cities, with Leesville/Ft. Polk posting a 42% increase. A lengthening of days on the
market indicates a slow down, most likely the result of rising mortgage rates in this case.

The number of new businesses established in Rapides in May 2022 fell -36% from April and is -56% below the previous
year. Statewide, new business applications in May 2022 decreased -10% from April 2022 and are down -39% from May

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