Sometime tomorrow, or perhaps today depending on when I get this post completed, President Trump will announce tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Rather than engage in a knee jerk response that free trade is always the best approach I think it would pay to be a little more circumspect about the outcomes. First, is free trade beneficial to all parties? Well yes and no.
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.
So JT asked me about the existence of a labor shortage in Grand Forks. Essentially asking if there really is one or is it something we make up to explain some issue in local labor markets. Let’s first understand that this can change from time to time, month to month as it were. Let’s go to the data.
A bit of a wonky discussion on the radio today with the guest host. Policy stances for both fiscal and monetary policy were the major topics, mostly with relations to stock price movements. I could talk policy all day, as I did for most of the hour on the radio.
There are many ways to slice and dice employment and the change in employment in a community. How webs to do it, and whether the approach generates meaningful outcomes, is not always clear. We can look at particular sectors and attribute outsize importance to them and fear job loss is symptomatic of a declining employment base. It could also be the case the local labor market composition changed and the losses in one sector were the gain in another.