The way my travels fell meant I got back to back posts for sales tax because of the release schedule. So the question is: what have we learned? Well if somebody can explain to me the way the city is breaking out the report and why that makes sense, I would appreciate it.
The May release came out earlier this week and was a real whopper. It was quite high and well outside the 95% confidence interval of the forecast from last month. We need another month, or months, of data to determine the impacts of the tax increase though. This number could be high in anticipation of the higher rate, or it could be pent up demand shifted to March due to bad weather in January or February. Easter also occurred in March this year and, as my forecasting class saw, that increased sales tax collections in Grand Forks in the past so it could be that situation again. It could also be related to tax cuts at the federal level though I am a bit skeptical that it would just start showing up in spending data for March. Like I said though we need to see where it is at over the next few months before determining the longer term trajectory. Here is the updated forecast.
The state released an updated forecast from Moody’s today along with some slides that make little sense (found here). I would go into the details of the forecast but why bother? We have absolutely no insight into the forecast process followed, the assumptions underlying any model relationships, or even a list of variables employed and the time period considered. Seriously, if this were my forecasting class, they would fail.
We are getting a new forecast this week for tax revenues in North Dakota. Or so we are told. I’ve written about the problems with these forecasts in the past, but there is a further issue here needing discussion. The simple fact of the matter is a lack of good practice in the overall approach, particularly with how forecast results are disseminated.