Monroe, La. (AP) — Consumer spending picked up steam in Ouachita Parish to close out the first quarter in March.

The News-Star reports combined collections for all Ouachita Parish jurisdictions were up 7.8 percent in March compared to the same month in 2011.

Bob Eisenstadt, director of the University of Louisiana at Monroe's Center for Business and Economic Research, call it a good month and a solid quarter with the three-month running average of retail activity up about 6 percent,

Collections in Monroe were particularly strong with the city up 10.7 percent and the school board up 7.6 percent.

Eisenstadt said an early Easter could have pulled some sales into March.