The economic definition of labor force is a bit different from the conventional view. The labor force is employed plus unemployed, who by definition are those without a job but looking for work. I bring this up to avoid any confusion with the variable actually being forecast.
I thought it appropriate to take a break from the sales tax discussions and branch out into other variables of interest and importance to the local economy. As it turns out many of these will have direct or indirect bearing on sales tax anyway so a broader approach seems relevant. The availability of labor is important to the local economy, and is a significant limiting factor as far as growth and development plans go.
Here is a graph of the year-over-year percentage change for labor force. There was some good growth in labor force in 2015 and the growth did not go negative until September of 2017, where it remained for the latest six months of available data.
This was just a look at the data with the seasonal aspects removed. We see little movement in the variable from 2010 to 2014 despite initiatives by the city. I also did a forecast of the labor force for Grand Forks as well.
There forecast does reasonably well predicting movements in the past for the labor force, though looking at the forecast horizon it becomes clear there is a significant amount of volatility in the data series. The best prediction is for a reasonably flat outlook for labor force in Grand Forks over the next twenty-four months, which is better than a significant decline.
Some future posts will take a look at the outlook for employment and other key variables. The general impression I have is that Grand Forks, North Dakota, and the US as a whole are in a state of flux regarding economic performance and policy without a clear sense of direction. This makes outlooks much more volatile than in the recent past and requires more analysis and more discussion.