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Janell Cole, Published December 31 2008

ND’s 3Q taxable sales, purchases up

BISMARCK – Fears that the national recession could be reaching North Dakota in the second half of 2008 were allayed – for now – when the Tax Department said Tuesday that taxable sales and purchases made in the state from July through September totaled $3.452 billion, up

$755 million or 28 percent compared to the same quarter in 2007.

“This is a great report reflecting robust growth for the third quarter,” said Tax Commissioner Cory Fong. “North Dakota’s retail trade continued to show strength, in contrast to the national reports of slipping sales.”

He said that retail sales in the state, often considered a measurement of consumer confidence, continued to grow, with a gain of 7.73 percent compared to the same period for 2007. Inflation during the same time was 5.3 percent.

This was the second such quarterly report that coincided with depressing national news. The national reports do not reflect the same time period as the state re-ports.

On Nov. 14, the state Tax Department said this year’s second quarter (April through June) taxable sales and purchases had leaped 21.4 percent from the same period in 2007.

It was the same day a national report announced retail sales had fallen off in October.

Tuesday’s state report was released the same day na-tional news reported con-sumer confidence nationwide had hit an all-time low during December.

In November, Fong had cau-tioned that the second half of the year in North Dakota might see a slowdown, but Tuesday’s report showed an even bigger increase than the second quarter.

The Tax Department said 14 of 15 industries in North Dakota had growth in the third quarter, with wholesale trade growing the most in dollars – $254.4 million. The largest percentage increase was in transportation and warehousing.

The only sector that didn’t grow was the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector, which dropped 0.8 percent compared to the third quarter of 2007.

Though the construction sector saw declines in Fargo, West Fargo and Grand Forks, it was up statewide by 22.4 percent. Construction jumped more than 41 percent in Bismarck, 92 percent in Williston, 28.4 percent in Dickinson, and 154 percent in Jamestown.

The energy industry helped significantly, as it had in the previous quarter. Taxable sales and purchases in mining and oil exploration were up 104.5 percent.

Cities in the oil patch continued to see phenomenal growth: Tioga, up 115 percent; Stanley, 114.6 percent; Williston, 75 percent; New Town, 61 percent. Outside the oil industry areas, Northwood had a 39.6 percent jump, no doubt reflecting a return to nor-malcy after a tornado deci-mated commerce in the town during the third period last year.

Counties in the oil patch tracked with the cities in that area, with the highest percentage increases in Burke, up 423 percent; Stark, up 89.3 percent; Williams, up 79.1 percent, and Mountrail, up 77 percent. Outside the oil fields, Benson County was up 69 percent.

Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. She can be reached at (701) 224-0830 or forumcap@btinet.net