Natchitoches reaches record low unemployment

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Nathan Wilson | Reporter

Dr. Randall Dupont, Dean of LSU Alexandria’s College of Business releases monthly Cenla Economic Dashboard reports in which he compiles information about the economic vibrancy of nearby parishes. He dubbed his most recent release the Natchitoches Edition for both the attention it gives to Natchitoches Parish, and to highlight some of the positive developments it reveals.

This article published in the April 2, 2022, print edition

Natchitoches enjoyed a broad range of positive economic indicators when compared with a year ago in spite of the seasonal cool down which typically follows the holiday season.
The unemployment rate in Natchitoches rose in January to 3.7% from a record low of 3.1% set in December 2021. Unemployment remains below the national and statewide rates of 4% and 4.3% respectively, but below the Alexandria metro area where there are approximately three job openings for every unemployed person.
Some economists warn extremely low unemployment rates are an indication of overheating in the economy, a factor which drives inflation and leaves businesses with unfilled vacancies. Since January 2020, job opening have increased dramatically in industries including education, hospitality, finance and professional services, while statewide openings in manufacturing more than doubled.
Total February sales tax revenue in Natchitoches climbed 29% from February 2021 to reach nearly $3.3 million.
Tax revenues from online shopping increased somewhat slower, at 22%, from the same time last year. A faster growth rate for in-person sales marks a reversal of a years long trend in consumer behavior and is widely considered positive news for storefront retailers.
While the portion of sales tax revenues generated by online sales is a small fraction of the total amount collected, their rapid growth along with their distribution to less developed retail markets has given it outsized importance to local coffers. In 2020, Louisiana became one of the last states to enact online sales tax collection after a yearlong delay. Only a handful of states do not collect sales taxes.
Both Natchitoches Parish and the City of Natchitoches recorded dramatic increases in the value of permits issued. The city saw growth in permit valuations of 45% from a year ago while permit valuations in the parish more than tripled. This suggests much of the parish’s new growth and development is occurring outside the city of Natchitoches.
Natchitoches residents continued to spend more time at home during February 2022 compared to before the pandemic with data showing residents spent 11% less time away from home compared to January 2020. Despite this, hotel occupancy for February increased 42% from a year ago despite being less than half of its peak season during the months of December and January.