Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Local economy remains on solid footing, according to LSUS economic dashboard 

by BIZ Magazine

SHREVEPORT – If Douglas White would have had to predict 18 months ago whether the U.S. economy could achieve a “soft landing,” he along with most other economists would have given a resounding no. 

But the Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, appears to be threading the needle of stemming the rise of inflation while not sending the economy into a recession. 

Local economic numbers are following that trend, according to third quarter data from the Northwest Louisiana Economic Dashboard released in mid-November. 

Local inflation ticked down slightly in October, sitting at a 3.2 percent increase from a year ago (3.7 percent in September). 

The Shreveport-Bossier MSA (includes Caddo, Bossier and DeSoto parishes) unemployment is 3.7 percent, a small increase from previous months but down from its annual high of 4.6 percent in June. 

“When we started this project seven quarters ago, the Fed had started to hike interest rates and we were at the height of inflation,” said White, the director for the Center for Business and Economic Research at LSUS, which compiles the local economic data for the dashboard. “I didn’t think the Fed was going to pull it out (a soft landing). 

“But the data seems to suggest they have. Unemployment rates are at historic lows. Even though prices are still higher than they were, inflation month-over-month is almost non-existent. Inflation is slightly above three percent year-over-year, and the Fed’s target rate is two percent. Estimates out there say it takes six to 18 months to see all the effects from the rate hikes, so you’d expect for them to still have some cooling effect on the economy.” 

The NWLA Economic Dashboard, which has published every quarter since the first quarter of 2022, is available on the LSUS website and open to any member of the public. 

The Dashboard compiles information on tax collection, housing, building permits, unemployment, casino revenue and admissions, airport traffic, mortgage rates, inflation and gas prices. 

Other positive signs for the local economy include Shreveport having a nearly seven percent increase in tax receipts in the 2023 third quarter compared to the 2022 third quarter. 

Airport traffic so far this year is at a four-year high for both travelers flying out of and into Shreveport Regional Airport. 

“The airport numbers are another sign that our economy is doing well,” White said. “That means either that business travel is up, or that more people are doing well enough to take vacations by flying out of Shreveport.” 

But White said consumer sentiment tends to tread on the negative side despite the economic data. 

“One problem with unemployment is that it asks only if you are employed, not if you’re a part-time worker who wants to work full-time or other measures of underemployment,” White said. “There’s anecdotal evidence out there that says while most people got some sort of a raise, it didn’t keep up with the pace of inflation, so many people might not be as well off as they were two years ago because wages haven’t been able to keep up with prices.” 

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