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North Dakota Continuing Claims & Unemployment Benefits

4 days ago

I am back to posting after a bout of Crohn’s disease requiring the removal of my appendix. So North Dakota will join a number of other states and stop using the extra federal money added to unemployment benefits. The thought process in general is that the extra benefits deter people from finding work. Now let’s accept from the start that we can surely find people for whom this is true, and people for whom this is not true. We want some broader understanding and that is what I attempt here. In terms of data to examine I look at continuing unemployment claims, that is, people that filed an initial unemployment claim before and now file a continuing claim that they are still out of work. I aggregate claims from the weekly data into a monthly series, simply summing all the claims in a

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What is Grand Forks? (Post #500!)

April 1, 2021

For at least the last 6 or 7 years and maybe as many as 10 years Jarrod Thomas and I asked some pretty important questions about Grand Forks and the immediate vicinity in North Dakota (1310 KNOX AM Grand Forks, Thursdays at 9am central). One of the most important questions remains unanswered (that seems to be the way it usually goes): what is Grand Forks?

This is not just a simple matter of civic pride. Identity in this case is a starting point for policy. It is a recognition of constraints and defining a path forward. This is why JT and I for many, many shows, over many, many years tried to come up with an answer to this question. This is why we pressed for there to be a bigger conversation about this topic. And so far? JT and I, and a few persistent radio stalkers, I mean

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Metro Area Definition Changes and ND

March 19, 2021

David

Economist and economic historian with an interest in population analysis and demographic methods. Especially interested in natural disasters and disruptions to economic activity and changes in population dynamics, as well as fiscal and monetary policy with forecasting implications. Husband, father, Cubs fan.
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Radio caller follow ups

March 19, 2021

There were a few callers to the radio show today and just a few points to follow up since there is only an hour. The whole show really centered around the concept of herd immunity.

One caller mentioned the lower mortality for children from COVID and the caller is correct that the mortality from COVID for kids is low. Now it is not zero so there is still risk for contracting and dying. The bigger risk for children however is spreading it to family members who may experience problems as a result. That was not mentioned and is an important part to keep in mind.

Then there was the caller that said the COVID vaccines are not vaccines. I had no response to that one as I could not even fathom how to engage with someone with such a worldview.

One big policy idea I think we

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Pandemic Policy Starting Points

March 18, 2021

The host and the guests on the Jarrod Thomas Show often ask me about the development of an actual policy regime to deal with pandemic so that the next time, and they seem to believe there will be a next time, it is not an ad hoc system of ideas. Maybe the goal should actually be not AS MUCH an ad hoc system but we can debate that point later.

Part of the process to figure out a new policy going forward will be to understand where we were at the start. The COVID situation impacted different areas in distinct fashions so I give the county level median income for all counties in North Dakota.

It is a simple starting point but there are a few takeaways. Prior to pandemic the oil economy still drove up incomes in the western part of the state. Since pandemic impacted oil prices

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Herd Immunity in North Dakota

March 17, 2021

Let’s start with the fact that “herd immunity” is actually not terribly well defined. The definition is pretty clear, enough incidence of infection and vaccination that the spread of disease becomes unlikely. The issue for many is there is not necessarily a precise percentage we can attach here. That is actually fine, I am sure for different diseases the threshold for herd immunity would be different. However in the current situation with COVID-19 we are trying to vaccinate quickly to help get to this level. Depending on the definition this is going to be an interesting policy question.

I provide the ND population pyramid (for 2019) to help make this point. The distribution of the population across the age ranges can make achieving herd immunity difficult. Let’s say the number

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Unpopular Opinion Time: Why act like impacts are permanent?

March 11, 2021

Covid adjustments have been widespread and the impacts are great. However, the impacts are not necessarily permanent even though there are so many complaints that make this seem so. For this post I focus on education, especially elementary education.

There is no doubt there are impacts on learning by children across the country. Whether remote, hybrid, in-school, or any other combinations learning is different this year. The issue I have is the attitude this is inevitably a permanent setback for children. I am not aware of why this would be the case. There of course will be extra work to “catch up” or “make up” for lost time or difficult instruction. That is not a permanent setback.

It is actually a disservice to the children to suggest it will be. The fact is we have many

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Minimum Basic Income, the Legacy Fund, and North Dakota

March 4, 2021

I receive many call on the radio complaining about support payments, stimulus payments, unemployment insurance, and pretty much anything else that is similar. The overarching theme behind the complaints is such systems reduce the incentive to work. I also get many calls about what North Dakota should be doing with the Legacy Fund instead of letting it accrue. So I thought we could combine the two briefly.

The different uses for the Legacy Fund are a political/policy matter and I do not have so much to contribute on that front. Of interest is a combination of the two and for that we can look at the work of Damon Jones (Univ. of Chicago) and Ioana Marinescu (U Penn). They researched employment effects of the Alaska Permanent Fund and found that the payments made to Alaska

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ND Metro Area Employment, 2010-2020

February 18, 2021

Metro area North Dakota accounts for a large share of the population and the economic activity in the state so it is interesting to pay attention to them at times. It is actually really important to look at these three metro areas compared to each other. That is where the most informative comparisons can be made. So what do we make of the employment situation in these metro areas over the last decade.

A big takeaway here is the continued growth of employment in Fargo without much of an increase in Bismarck and Grand Forks. These other two metro areas, in some ways, are falling behind Fargo. Think of the number of initiatives in these two metro areas to create growth that essentially created no noticeable changes in employment over this time frame. All this with low unemployment

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Radio Show Live Blog – 4 February 2021

February 4, 2021

Live blogging the topics from the KNOX radio appearance today. Trying to keep the engagement up.

First topic was GameStop and Robin Hood situation. It is going to be really interesting watching this going forward. The “democratization” of Finance was not well received, though clearly some lost money in these efforts, not just hedge funds. The no/low cost trading platforms seem to be the most at risk coming out of this in terms of new regulation.

9:28 – After the break will be talking about the “stimulus” check / support check situation and the possible move to something like minimum basic income.

9:38 – Checks out to Americans is the topic. Minimum basic income mechanics and how it looks instead of piece meal approach with support checks is the nature of the discussion.

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Upcoming topics

February 4, 2021

David

Economist and economic historian with an interest in population analysis and demographic methods. Especially interested in natural disasters and disruptions to economic activity and changes in population dynamics, as well as fiscal and monetary policy with forecasting implications. Husband, father, Cubs fan.
View all posts by David

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North Dakota Employment over the Trump Presidency

January 21, 2021

With the Trump Presidency complete we can take an early look at the changes in employment occurring during that time in the state of North Dakota. There were many things going on in North Dakota over this time including a commodity cycle impacting both the oil and agriculture industries. The picture in the state is similar to the picture for the country as a whole, which is really interesting. North Dakota is clearly not as diversified as the entire country and so the fact that a commodity intensive economy and a more diversified national economy display similar attributes is not what you would expect.

The similarities in decline continue into recovery. The picture of a possible further decline in the state is also a concern for future growth at this point. The nonfarm

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The Employment Situation During the Trump Years

January 21, 2021

President Trump’s time in the White House ended yesterday and so it seems an appropriate time to start looking at some of the economic data at the conclusion of this time. I grabbed two data series, US Nonfarm employment and US private employment from January 2017 to December 2020. The two series look pretty much identical in terms of shape, though obviously there is a bit of a scale difference. So let’s look at the pictures.

Let’s deal with the numbers first and then discuss some cause and effect. The fact is that nonfarm employment in December 2020 is slightly more than 3 million lower than when President Trump took over in January 2021. Also the private sector employment is over 2 million less over the same time period. These represent a 2% decline and a 1.7% decline,

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Home Prices and Income

December 17, 2020

A frequent topic on the radio focuses on the difficult to define topic of “affordable housing.” This is really subjective and terribly idiosyncratic to the local level which makes it difficult to discuss. I provide a look at index values at the national level, just to see the course of these over time. I use nominal disposable per capita income and the FHFA price index, with all values indexed to 100 in January of 1991.

There is a remarkable consistency to the track of the two data series over time with the home price data showing the clear signs of the housing boom and eventual bust. In addition the personal income data shows a spike in the monthly income series, and a drastic drop due to COVID. This data only confirms how difficult it is to evaluate the issue of

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Grand Forks Sales Tax Data

November 20, 2020

I took a look sales tax data for Grand Forks this week. 2020 started off well for Grand Forks, well ahead of 2019. After that there were notable drops and changes to the point where it was well below levels from previous years.

In terms of the rolling total for the year we see that 2020 continues to stay ahead of the pace for 2019. There are broader concerns about the sustainability of economic performance as well as the local economic impacts on small businesses of the surge in COVID. That is not necessarily going to show up in a graph of collections. Purchases from online and people shifting to making food at home versus restaurants will not necessarily show up in these figures.

Obviously COVID changed the nature of purchasing by consumers. This graph shows the different

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ND COVID Update

November 20, 2020

I will get back to the moving average representations and other analysis soon but I wanted to try and think about this from a different visualization. In general I think it is accepted with this, and any disease for that matter, that you get exposure to the disease which shows up with positives, positives lead to hospitalizations, and hospitalizations lead (unfortunately) to deaths. So how are the county positives looking? I look at two different measures, the seven day total positivity rate, and the week-over-week growth in positives.

The color coding represents the 7 day positivity level. Higher levels on each of the scales is a bad thing. We can see there are two outlier counties right off the bat. There is a significant amount of congestion in the 15% level of the

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ND Labor Markets

November 12, 2020

One of the big stories nationally, and rightly so, focuses on the adjustments in labor markets, or really the lack of adjustments in labor markets. We still see national initial claims for unemployment in the hundreds of thousands, and while job creation is good, we have not got back all the jobs lost. In North Dakota it is a somewhat similar story.

We are all aware of the record levels of initial claims in North Dakota this year but what we see here in the map above is the major economic areas for retail, for hospitality, for energy, and other sectors are the source of the highest level of initial claims.

Behind the scenes with all these claims are the changed economic circumstances due to COVID forcing very difficult decisions at businesses and households. We can attempt

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ND County COVID Update, 11 November 2020

November 12, 2020

Positivity rates are climbing, faster in Ward and Williams than elsewhere, but they are still climbing. Burleigh, Cass, Grand Forks, and Morton counties are all increasing and are at or near 15% for positivity rates (for the 15 day MA). It is not really a surprise to see discussions about the capacity of the health system when you see these levels of positivity.

Of course, with such high positivity you do get the increases in hospitalizations and the chance of more deaths. We see that happening for all the counties, though again rates of increase vary.

Grand Forks and Williams remain lower than others while Ward witnessed a shocking increase in deaths to draw close to Burleigh and Cass.
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ND State COVID Update, 11 November 2020

November 12, 2020

The state COVID data system was down yesterday so I was not able to update graphs so we have a bit of a gap but not much really. It would be nice to report a dramatic reversal, but no such luck.

The overall state positivity rate continues to increase up with the 7 day centered MA approaching the 17.5% level, and recent observations make it likely to continue the increase.

ND still leads in testing per capita but that is not helping as the positives continue to increase at an even faster pace than testing. We are now at more than 7.5% of the state testing positive at this point. The concerns about overloading the health capacity of the state is real and comes at a time when the entire country experiences the same means we have little in the way of options right now.
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ND County COVID Update, 09 November 2020

November 10, 2020

The numbers continue to move in the wrong direction. It is pretty much as simple as that.

The big western North Dakota counties positivity rate continues to accelerate past the level in the other counties. Williams looks set to eclipse 20% positivity without a major reversal. The other counties remain at levels flirting with 15%.

The increase in positivity for Ward county clearly coincides with the increase in deaths there unfortunately. Grand Forks and Williams remain lower in total deaths though circumstances are still fluid enough that nobody should be resting easy right now.

These included counties represent such a concentration of population, economic activity, and medical services that the circumstances in them would naturally be expected to transmit around the

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ND COVID Update, 09 November 2020

November 10, 2020

The Governor gave another press conference today describing the situation in a way very similar to what I detailed over the last few weeks. We are at, or near, an exponential growth situation for virus cases. The Governor’s message was about strain on the health network in the state, which is a real concern going forward.

Positivity rates continue to increase and are spiking in that exponential fashion. The volume of cases mean that difficult cases are increasing and thus so are hospitalizations. Difficult cases increase and naturally so do deaths. This relationship is really not in question. Essentially without some type of reversal in the near future we can expect at least some of the worst case health crisis mentioned throughout the last few months.

The red line is the

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ND County Covid Data, Update 08 November 2020

November 9, 2020

The positivity data for the different counties (15 day MA) shows all the positivity rates for all the counties rising, with Ward county still uncomfortably high. However, all the counties are looking to eclipse 15% soon.

The widespread incidence of COVID indicated here corresponds well with the death information in the next graph.

All counties are seeing increases in deaths, with the pace of increase highest in Ward county as well as the fact that Ward is narrowing the gap in deaths with Burleigh and Cass. Grand Forks, Morton, and Williams all show increases though the pace of increase is lower right now.
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North Dakota COVID Update, 08 November 2020

November 9, 2020

The COVID-19 situation is still not looking good in the state. We are seeing the various metrics continue to move in the wrong direction.

The positivity rate for susceptible test encounters continues to increase. The 15-day MA is well above 12.5% and the 7-day MA is above 15%. These thresholds are important indicators of the level of community spread and the risks in the region.

I also took a look at the number of individuals tested, that is, only counting a person once, regardless of how many times they tested and the positive outcomes, both as a percentage of the overall population. If we keep going in the future the way the last 7 days went, it will be about 16 days before we cross the 10% mark for positives as a share of state population. The problem is the rate appears

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ND positivity rates, Update 06 November 2020

November 6, 2020

I changed the centered moving average from 14 days to 15 days. Why? With 15 days there is a natural center date so that is one reason. A 15 day moving average is not going to look significantly different from a 14 day moving average, so that is reason two. The idea behind the moving average at this length is that the state of North Dakota reports the 14 day average, and it coincides with the typical incubation period.

We see the consistent increase in the moving average since about July. The moving average allows us to smooth out the variation that occurs in the daily positivity rate (17.2% for 11/05/2020).

I also made an identical calculation for the larger counties in the state. The situation is more variable at the county level with some higher and some lower than the

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ND Covid Deaths, update 04 November 2020

November 5, 2020

So I am updating the deaths numbers again, and I have some new graphs to post. I am still working on positivity numbers and will have new posts for that soon.

The mass of deaths towards the recent end of the graph is again symptomatic of the large degree of positive cases and community spread experienced currently in North Dakota. In terms of the cumulative number of deaths, not the simple daily count as above we have:

This is the cumulative sum in the state and the notable feature is not the level, it is how the graph slope takes a sharp upward turn right before October. The picture is consistent with the other graph and the situation with community spread timing in North Dakota.

I wanted to also provide a comparison graph for certain counties. If you have a county you

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ND COVID Deaths update, 03 November 2020

November 4, 2020

Just focusing on the deaths graph today. I am reworking a few of the other graphs and will start reposting them as soon as I figure out how they will look best. One thing to keep in mind with the deaths graph is that on any given day the numbers change for more than just that day. What do I mean?

If you looked at the release from the ND Department of Health there were something around 15 deaths announced in today’s release. However there are only 2 deaths in the data release today for November 2. There is a lag in reporting the deaths and the state rightly announces the deaths when they know about them, and then allocates them in the data file to the actual date of death. Just something to keep in mind when you hear things and the data do not necessarily match. This is nothing

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ND COVID Deaths

November 3, 2020

The State Health Department reported 9 new deaths today, though the delay in death certificates does not mean those are all from yesterday. Any one day is not necessarily a major data point from the state level (it clearly is to those knowing someone that died). It is the mass of larger numbers occurring at the end of September and into October that should be of concern because these are increasing as the COVID positivity rates are rising.

We really need to start worrying about the positivity increase and the resulting stress on medical facilities and possible increases in fatalities (see for example the Ward county graph I posted today).

At some level it feels like the long delay in COVID issues impacting health systems is over. The persistent increases in positivity

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ND Counties Positivity, Updated 02 November 2020

November 3, 2020

David

Economist and economic historian with an interest in population analysis and demographic methods. Especially interested in natural disasters and disruptions to economic activity and changes in population dynamics, as well as fiscal and monetary policy with forecasting implications. Husband, father, Cubs fan.
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ND COVID MA Positivity, 02 November 2020

November 3, 2020

The daily positivity rate continued above 10% in today’s release.

What we are seeing is the continued increase regardless of testing levels. The state is just under the 12.5% positivity rate by this measure right now and only 2 of the last 6 days were below this level expect a continued increase.

The same situation is bearing out when we look at the positivity rate with total tests. The immediate future looks ripe for increases in the centered moving average.

The susceptible encounters continue to be high in several counties so testing is hopefully finding the sources of the disease though at our current levels the usefulness of contact tracing is a bit of a question.

It is time to turn to some broader questions. Tracking the COVID 19 data was largely public

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ND Covid Deaths, 01 November 2020

November 2, 2020

David

Economist and economic historian with an interest in population analysis and demographic methods. Especially interested in natural disasters and disruptions to economic activity and changes in population dynamics, as well as fiscal and monetary policy with forecasting implications. Husband, father, Cubs fan.
View all posts by David

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