Grand Forks released retail sales tax collections which are for the month of December 2017. There are various different ways to look at the number. It is a .31% increase over December of 2016. An increase is an increase I suppose, though it should be cause for concern if the general optimism permeating the economy surrounding the tax cut happened to miss Grand Forks. The January and February releases for this year, which represent sales tax collected in November and December of 2017, are around 6.5% less than this time last year. It is also the case that 17 of the last 38 months have been lower than year ago values for sales tax collections.
These numbers are not great and reflect further the general questions in existence about the overall direction for the Grand Forks economy. We have persistent labor market issues. It may be a shortage, it may be a skills imbalance. Whatever the case it is not getting better promptly.
The general lack of direction for sales tax collections also reflects slower paces for business and building activity in the Grand Forks area. Have I mentioned anything unambiguously positive yet? Apparently it is not going to be that type of post. If I was going to be worried about anything, it would be the general positive attitude about tax cuts and the impact on sales that seems to not manifest itself in the Grand Forks data. Yes the bill was such that people did not see actually changes yet. Still, the anticipation should dictate some response.
Or what if we had the positive impacts and still only managed less than a 1% increase in retail sales tax collections. That might be the most troubling prospect.