North Dakota taxable sales and purchases were down 5 percent for the first quarter of 2017, compared to the first three months of 2016.
"We are basically at our 2011 levels right now," said Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger.
Taxable sales and purchases for the quarter were nearly $3.7 billion. The largest sector – retail trade – was at $1.3 billion. Rauschenberger said retail sales dropped slightly – but it was a much smaller decline than in the past few years.
Rauschenberger said for the past couple of years, taxable sales and purchases have been down by double digits – so things appear to be leveling off.
"Even though oil prices are lower, they have somewhat stabilized in the mid-$40s," Rausechenbger said in an interview. "We have a decent rig count. Oil production has stabilized. So, we weathered the storm this winter, and saw taxable sales and purchases being relatively flat and down slightly."
Rauschenberger said he’s hoping the economy is turning the corner.
"We are cautious, because of the drought," Rauschenberger said. "We are going to be cautious on agriculture, because it has a huge multiplier effect throughout our economy."
Three of the 15 major industry sectors reported taxable sales and purchases gains. The retail sector had a total of $1.26 billion. Rauschenberger said that showed a much smaller decline than the past couple of years.