For economist June will be regarded as an interesting month in North Dakota. That is because of the all the larger North Dakota cities only the hot oil patch town of Williston saw an increase in the city sales tax collections. And that increase was more than 12 percent. Even Dickinson, regarded as the next hot expansion town saw a decrease of nearly 6 percent.

The big monthly change was in Devils Lake, a decrease of more than 30 percent. To me most interesting of all was Bismarck. First of all, of the major cities it had the largest monthly decrease, and what really needs to be compared is that comparing the YTD data it is the only major city on the negative side. Considering all the federal, state, NGO, and “professional” headquarters located there that is surprising.

Also, although Dickinson had a negative change in collections for this month, for the YTD its increase is more than twice of Williston, and in fact is second only to Fargo.

Fargo’s decrease this month is substantial, and probably reflects Americas weak retail sales since Christmas. It also probably reflects the weak Canadian dollar as much as any North Dakota town except for Grand Forks, and when comparing those two it may be hurt proportionally even more than Grand Forks by the declining loonie.

As the oil industry continues to mature it will be interesting to see what will happen to the North Dakota economy. As of today it is only the strong oil market that is keeping North Dakota at the level it is. As late as the farm planting was, and as poor as those prices in that sector will have a major decline, and so to its secondary effects such as sales of farm machinery.

Retail, in my opinion will continue to see a major decline.

This will be North Dakota’s most interesting change in its economy since the beginning of the oil and agricultural boom starting nearly a decade ago.


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