I aggregated the COVID statistics from the North Dakota Dashboard into monthly numbers for the state as a whole. A few quick takeaways include that COVID continues to spread and is in fact at its highest level yet in the state. The positivity rate is not much better as you can see below as well.
A monthly positivity in excess of 15% is pretty lousy, but that is where we are at for January 2022 so far.
Some will look at this and say the spread plus vaccination is pushing us closer to herd immunity. I am not a big believer that is going to happen at this point with the pace of variants. Essentially we would see the COVID response start to resemble an annual flu shot type process.
How this impacts factors like labor markets and the movement of goods is still evolving, along with the responses of people. Did COVID change preferences? As in did people decide working was less important. Maybe for some. The simple fact is that COVID increased risk, or at least risk awareness, associated with some activities. Certain activities became riskier with the result that people responded with risk aversion. We still need time to figure this out completely.
In February of 2020, immediately prior to the pandemic, U.S. civilian labor force participation was 63.4% and within two months it dropped to 60.2%, which was the low for the pandemic era. Since then it recovered and currently sits at a pandemic high of 61.9%. The point I would draw out of this is we are not talking about COVID making enormous changes in labor force participation. It is only 1.5% below where it was immediately before the pandemic. Now where those individuals were working, both geographically and sector of the economy, may have an outsized impact. It may be difficult to bring in new workers from outside the region or the skill sets of workers in other local sectors make them a poor substitute. The fact is we need more data to better understand the changes that occurred and the thought processes driving them. It seems unlikely policy ideas will be successful until we have more information about that.