East Baton Rou
East Baton Rouge consumer and business spending saw its best month in nearly five years during March as the COVID-19 vaccine became more available and pandemic restrictions eased.
More than $987 million was spent in the parish that month, according to figures released Friday by the city-parish Finance Department.
That’s up 23.5% from the $799.5 million spent in March 2020, when nonessential businesses and bars shut down, restaurants became carryout-only and officials capped the number of people who could mill about a store at a given time.
March has marked the best month for spending in East Baton Rouge since December 2016, when $998.6 million in sales was recorded. Spending that month was not only boosted by the holidays, but by all of the rebuilding, replacing and refurnishing that was happening in the aftermath of the August 2016 floods.
All Louisiana residents over the age of 16 became eligible for the vaccine in March, just as capacity limitations at businesses were eased.
Vehicle sales posted a similar increase, going up 25% from March 2020, from $64.2 million to $80.2 million. The increase came despite a worldwide shortage of microchips, which has drastically reduced inventory available at new and used car lots.
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Spending at retailers, which made up nearly 57% of all economic activity in the parish, ticked up 40.3% in March. Sales at restaurants and bars performed even better, posting a 79% increase over March 2020.
Manufacturing spending, which can be affected by the purchase of big-ticket equipment, fell 19%.
Sales inside the Baton Rouge city proper spiked 23.3% for the month from $443 million to $546.3 million. The uptick was even bigger outside the city, where there was a 23.7% increase in sales from $356.5 million to $440.9 million.
Sales tax collections were $19.7 million for March, compared to $16 million for the same period in 2020.
For the first quarter of the year, spending rose 6.5% in East Baton Rouge Parish from nearly $2.4 billion to $2.5 billion.
Spending inside the city limits was up 7.4% through the end of March, from $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion. Outside the city limits, spending was up 5.4% for the first three months of the year from nearly $1.1 billion to over $1.1 billion.