St. Tammany EDF Releases First Quarter Trends Report
The St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation today released its quarterly Trends Report, detailing local economic data for the first quarter of 2012.
The number of employed Parish residents jumped more than 2,000 employed compared with first quarter of 2011 (1Q11) for an increase of 2 percent and the unemployment rate fell from 6.3 percent to 5.9 percent in year-over-year comparison of corresponding quarterly data. Local unemployment was considerably lower than the state and national rates of 7.2 and 8.6 percent, respectively. An unemployment rate near 5 percent is considered economically healthy, as it indicates an available workforce for business startups and for companies considering relocation or expansion in the area.
The housing market has continued its rebound, with single-family permits rising from148 to 156 from the same quarter last year, an increase of 5.4 percent. Commercial building permits, however, fell 48 percent, suggesting the inventory of commercial space exceeds demand for the short-term. Continued growth of other sectors, however, combined with the falling unemployment rate, suggest this trend will not be long-lasting.
Housing unit sales rose 23.3 percent in quarter-over-quarter comparisons. Housing sales volume rose 15.3 percent in quarter-over-quarter comparisons. Average sales price fell 6.5 percent in 1Q12 from $206,000 to $192,000. An increase in housing sales reflects population growth that accompanies job-creation. Similarly, average apartment rent in St. Tammany rose 3.1 percent from the previous year, to $1,150, suggesting an increase in demand for housing.
Vehicle sales, a new trend indicator included in the report, rose 6.3 percent over the previous year. 1Q12 St. Tammany Parish total sales tax revenue/total sales were 3 percent higher than for 1Q11. During the first quarter total sales comparison with last year were 6 percent higher in January, fell to a gain of 0.6 percent in February, and gained 2.6 percent in March comparisons.
There were 678 new businesses launched in St. Tammany Parish in 1Q12, up 1.6 percent over the corresponding quarter of 2011.
“With the exception of commercial building permits, we are seeing evidence of a strong and growing economy,” said Brenda Reine Bertus, executive director of the STEDF. “While many parishes and states – and the nation as a whole – continue to recover from the economic downturn that began in 2008, St. Tammany Parish has many reasons to look forward with optimism. Our economy is diverse, our job market is growing, and the sectors that benefit from that growth are ticking upwards. Our organization will continue to build on these successes and work to improve our outlook.”