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Sales figures show slower growth for N.D. economy

BISMARCK -- North Dakota's tax commissioner said Thursday the growth rate of the state's economy slowed during the first three months of 2013, including declines in areas such as mining and construction, when compared to 2012.

In a release, Cory Fong said taxable sales and purchases were up $86.3 million from the same time in 2012, calling it a modest increase of 1.6 percent that "reflects a leveling off to a more sustainable pace."

Nine of 15 sectors reported growth during the first three months. The utilities sector had the largest percentage growth, with 58.3 percent compared to 2012.

The wholesale trade sector seeing a $80.9 million increase in taxable sales or 6.6 percent growth.

Six sectors were down, with a 39 percent decline in transportation and warehousing, 18.1 percent drop in construction, 7.3 percent drop in mining and oil extraction and a 7 percent drop in arts, entertainment and recreation.

"The impact of the prolonged severe winter weather affected our key industry sectors like mining and oil extraction, construction, and transportation and warehousing," said Fong. "In addition, rising fuel costs likely added to the challenges faced by businesses, ag producers, and individuals alike."

Spring came very late in North Dakota this year, a big change from 2012 that had a mild winter and an early spring.

Of the state's 50 largest cities, Northwood saw the largest taxable sales increase of 42 percent, with Grafton close behind with a 39 percent increase. Dickinson had a 14 percent jump with Fargo seeing a 0.15 percent increase.

Kenmare saw the largest drop with 44.7 percent, followed by Walhalla's 31.6 percent, Park River down 31 percent and Bowman with 29.8 percent drop. Grand Forks had a 1.9 percent drop and Jamestown saw a .07 percent decrease.

"While today's numbers point to a slowdown in the rate of growth when compared to the same quarter in 2012, the report is a reflection of the stability in North Dakota's diverse economy and reflects a leveling off to a more sustainable pace," Fong said.

The tax department had previously reported that from 2011 to 2012, North Dakota's taxable sales and purchases climbed more than $5 billion, or 28.7 percent.

During the fourth quarter of 2012 -- October, November and December -- North Dakota's taxable sales and purchases were $6.74 billion, up 9.7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011.