North Dakota's economy continued on its record-breaking roll in 2014 with taxable sales and purchases doubling since 2010 to more than $28.2 billion, but weaker numbers are expected for the first quarter of this year as a result of reduced oil drilling activity.
The $28.2 billion represents a 10.8 percent increase over the $25.5 billion in taxable sales and purchases in 2013. It’s also more than double the $14.1 billion total in 2010 and well above the 2 percent rate of inflation last year, state Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger said.
By comparison, the state saw year-over-year growth of about 38.9 percent in 2011, 28.7 percent in 2012 and 0.5 percent in 2013.
“We’re maintaining these years of unprecedented growth … and now we’re growing on top of that still,” he said.
Six of the state’s eight major metropolitan and micropolitan areas experienced growth, led by Dickinson at nearly 19.4 percent. That came as no surprise to Cooper Whitman, executive director of the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We absolutely had a fantastic year. Everyone talks about a slowdown. There’s clearly been a bit of a slowdown, but now with construction season ramping up, there isn’t much of one now,” he said.
Dickinson added new food service, retail and big-box stores last year – including a Menards home improvement store that opened in January 2014 – and the double-digit increase in taxable sales will make the city even more attractive to potential new businesses, Whitman said.
“To see that kind of growth can only benefit the community, giving us more choices,” he said.
Taxable sales and purchases increased by about 8.7 percent in Williston, 4.1 percent in Fargo, 0.38 percent in Grand Forks, 0.36 percent in Minot and 0.21 percent in Bismarck. Jamestown and Wahpeton saw decreases of about 4.8 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.
Ten of the 15 major industry sectors saw growth last year, led by an 18.4 percent, $806.4 million increase in the mining and oil extraction industry and a $955 million, 14.9 percent increase in the wholesale trade industry.
Mild weather in the fourth quarter provided favorable conditions not only for oil drilling but also for shopping, contributing to a 5 percent, $329 million bump in the retail trade industry, Rauschenberger said.
“Whenever we have good winter weather, we tend to have a better report than expected,” he said.
Of the 200 largest cities in North Dakota, 82 reported increases in taxable sales and purchases over the previous year, led percentage-wise by a 198 percent increase in Burlington, about five miles northwest of Minot. Decreases were reported by 116 cities compared with 2013.
Dunn County had the highest percentage increase among counties, at 62.4 percent.
Industry sectors that saw the most noticeable decreases were the construction industry at $22 million, or 2.2 percent, the utilities industry at $18.4 million, or 7.4 percent, and the educational healthcare and social services industries at $3.9 million, or 5.8 percent.
The effects of a sharp drop in crude oil prices late last year will show up in the first-quarter 2015 figures, Rauschenberger said.
“Likely we’ll see that be a negative number,” he said.
With prices falling, the number of active drilling rigs fell from 183 in mid-December to 137 by mid-February and stood at 85 on Tuesday.
(Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)