BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The East Baton Rouge City-Parish Finance Department reports retail spending rose 7 percent in March and for the quarter, as businesses and consumers continued to spend at a higher rate than a year ago.

The mayor's office said it was the biggest March ever, topping even post-Hurricane Katrina levels.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/JRcJN7 ) total spending in East Baton Rouge Parish was $716.3 million in March, compared with $669.8 million that month last year.

For the first quarter, spending was $1.94 billion, compared to $1.81 billion.

The figures do not include vehicle sales tax collections.