Consumer and business spending in East Baton Rouge Parish dropped by 0.3 percent in 2017 against tough comparisons with flood recovery-driven spending during the last four months of 2016.
Sales tax collection figures released Wednesday by the city-parish Finance Department show businesses and consumers spent $9.7 billion in 2017, compared with nearly $9.8 billion in 2016.
When vehicle sales are excluded, spending actually increased by 1.6 percent in 2017. Minus vehicle sales, spending totaled $8.9 billion in 2017, compared to almost $8.8 billion in 2016.
Consumer spending shot up in the last few months of 2016 as tens of thousands of homeowners replaced vehicles, furniture, appliances and furniture damaged during the flood and bought materials to rebuild their homes.
Spending within the Baton Rouge city limits was up 1.7 percent for 2017 to $5.5 billion. But spending outside the city limits of Baton Rouge was down 2.8 percent for the year to $4.2 billion.
Sales by category were down just about across the board. Retail sales, which account for 57 percent of the economic activity in the parish, were down 10.4 percent for the year. Sales at food service and drinking places, which account for 8.5 percent of activity, were down by 9.4 percent in 2017. But manufacturing sales, which make up 9 percent of activity, were 10 percent higher when compared with 2016. Manufacturing sales are a volatile category and are affected by large equipment purchases.
Vehicle sales were down 17 percent from the year before, at nearly $826.5 million for 2017.
Overall tax collections for the city-parish, which include vehicle sales, were $194.9 million in 2017, compared to $195.4 million for 2016.
In December, spending in the parish was down by 11 percent at nearly $887.9 million when compared with December 2016. While December is usually the biggest month for shopping because of holiday gift-giving, sales actually lagged behind what was spent in March, a sign of how much sales activity was affected by the flood.
Spending was down 10 percent in the city limits during December to $506.6 million. Outside the city limits, activity was down by 12.4 percent to $381.3 million.