I took a look sales tax data for Grand Forks this week. 2020 started off well for Grand Forks, well ahead of 2019. After that there were notable drops and changes to the point where it was well below levels from previous years.
In terms of the rolling total for the year we see that 2020 continues to stay ahead of the pace for 2019. There are broader concerns about the sustainability of economic performance as well as the local economic impacts on small businesses of the surge in COVID. That is not necessarily going to show up in a graph of collections. Purchases from online and people shifting to making food at home versus restaurants will not necessarily show up in these figures.
Obviously COVID changed the nature of purchasing by consumers. This graph shows the different timing of purchases by people as a result of COVID. This is really interesting because it also feeds into the availability of goods as people go to the store. If stores plan for items to be available at certain times, but people change their plans and demand differently, there will be a potential for shortages.
We need more time to determine the overall trajectory. With the volatility in the economy people often spend less, but we are heading into a time of year when people spend more. That is a long way of saying there are questions we need answered to increase the confidence in the outlook. We should get some key data points in the next week or so.