Consumer and business spending in East Baton Rouge Parish continued to surge in April as COVID vaccines became more available and restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the disease were eased.

Nearly $923.1 million was spent in the parish during April, according to figures released Wednesday by the city-parish Finance Department. That’s a 42.1% increase over the $649.6 million spent in April 2020.

Despite strong sales in December, consumer and business spending was down slightly in East Baton Rouge Parish in 2020.

Spending topped $9.7 billion in 2020, down 0.3% from the nearly $9.8 billion that was spent in 2019, according to figures from the city-parish Finance Department. The business shutdowns in the spring, which were done to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic caused the drop. Spending was down by 18.2% in April and 10.6% in May.

Even with the shutdowns, vehicle sales were higher than in 2019. More than $812 million was spent on automobiles in 2020, up 8.3% from the $750 million spent in 2019.

Sales at retailers, including grocery stores, were 2.4% higher in 2020 than in the year before. But sales in other categories were down for the year. Spending on services fell by 6.2%. Sales at restaurants and drinking establishments, a sector that was hard hit by reduced seating capacities and extended bar closures, were down by nearly 5.6%. Manufacturing spending, which can be affected by purchases of big-ticket equipment, was down 5.8% from 2019.

December sales were 7.1% higher than they were in 2019. More than $950 million was spent in the parish, compared to $887.6 million in December 2019.

Spending increased in the unincorporated areas of East Baton Rouge during 2020, rising by nearly 0.7%. There was nearly $4.4 billion spent outside the Baton Rouge city limits in 2020, compared to $4.3 billion in 2019.

In the Baton Rouge city limits, sales were down almost 1.2% for the year, coming in just under $5.4 billion. That compares to the slightly over $5.4 billion that was spent in 2019.

Combined sales and vehicle tax collections were $194.7 million in 2020, down from $195.4 million in 2019.

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