Consumer and business spending in East Baton Rouge Parish increased by 0.6 percent in March compared with a year ago.

Sales tax collection figures released by the city-parish Finance Department show businesses and consumers spent $712.5 million in March. That compares with $708.5 million in spending in March 2013.

The figures do not include vehicle sales, which are generally examined separately when looking at spending as an economic indicator.

Sales were up in several categories, including food services and drinking establishments, which increased 3.2 percent from the year before, and vehicle sales, up by nearly 5.8 percent. Categories that were down included manufacturing, off by 9.6 percent from the year before, and retail food stores, down 1 percent.

Spending, excluding vehicles, within the city limits was up 4.7 percent in March to $395.1 million. This includes activity at Cortana Mall and on College Drive.

Spending outside the city limits, which includes the Mall of Louisiana and big-box retailers on Siegen Lane, was down 4 percent in March to $317.4 million.

Vehicle sales were up 5.3 percent from the year before, reaching nearly $66.5 million for the month.

Overall tax collections for the city-parish, which include vehicle sales, were up 1 percent in March to nearly $15.6 million.

For the first three months of the year, spending in the parish, excluding vehicle sales, is running 2 percent ahead of 2013’s pace, to reach $1.95 billion.

Spending is up 4.7 percent in the city limits, at nearly $1.1 billion. The total is down 1.5 percent outside the city limits, at $884.2 million.

Tax collections for the first quarter of 2014, which includes vehicle sales, are up 2 percent, to reach $42.6 million.

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