Where social distancing and other factors will have a significant economic impact? The easy answer is: everywhere. That, however, is not very helpful for an answer. For any kind of policy discussion and response you need a better answer, or at least the start of one. It is also important when North Dakota has so many factors at play: flooding, oil price issues, and social distancing. So I looked at the retail pull factors in 2019 as a sign of regions most susceptible to decline.
This is the average for the entire year (Q1-Q3 only available now). Not too much of a surprise that the Bakken region is high in this regard. What this means to me is that they are more set up for a large fall. The pull factor is identifying counties with per capita retail sales above the state average. With oil and COVID-19 each a factor in that region it seems likely that this region has the most to lose.
To some extent the lighter blue counties of Cass and Grand Forks may enjoy some insulation from this. In fact what this shows is that the rest of the state is compressed as a result of big numbers in the Bakken region. I exclude the Bakken counties and generate another picture.
So the interesting note here is that the highest level is slightly above one once we exclude the Bakken region counties. Bismarck, Fargo, and Minot are the highest of the group, though I am not sure this is predictive in this form at this point. Clearly sales will be reduced, but at the same time these are still the retail centers in the state, along with Grand Forks. To some extent people near these four counties do a significant amount of shopping in those four. This can offset a bit, but it is not clear how much at this point.
When you add to this the reported increase in unemployment claims for the state you clearly see the difficult times in the near future. Clearly there is a decline, and the biggest two questions we might have now, among what I am sure are a myriad of other questions center on the timing of the health crisis and how fast can business recovers after that time.