Business News: GF Tax…EGF and Starbucks Subsidies

Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes fell in September for the eighth consecutive month, matching the pre-pandemic sales pace of 10 years ago, as house hunters grappled with sharply higher mortgage rates, rising house prices and a still tight supply of properties on the market. The national median home price rose 8.4% in September from a year earlier to $384,800.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week and remains at historic lows even as the US economy slows amid decades-high inflation. Unemployment claims for the week ending October 15 fell by 12,000 to 214,000 from 226,000 last week. The Labor Department said the four-week moving average rose from 1,250 to 212,250.

North Dakota’s unemployment rate slipped to 1.7% in September. This compares to 2.2% the previous month and 2.6% a year ago. Despite the low numbers, a total of 6,805 residents were looking for work during the month. North Dakota typically experiences a drop in unemployment between August and September.

Much has been made of labor shortages in North Dakota and Minnesota, but a new study suggests the two states are doing better than many others at attracting workers. An analysis by financial website WalletHub ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia on the job posting rate. The study ranks 26th among the countries where employers have the most difficulty in hiring… North Dakota ranks 40th. Here is the link to the study: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-employers-hiring/101730.

Wages rose even faster in Minnesota in September than in August, up 5.7% overall, though still slower than inflation, with CPI at 8.2% in September. The participation of adolescents (16 to 19 years old) in the labor market, at 53% in September (12-month moving average), has increased over the past two years. Teen unemployment is also very low at 6.2%, indicating that this group of workers is in demand and could help fill jobs. Employers are having more difficulty finding adults to fill a very tight labor market.

Grand Forks pocketed $2.83 million in local sales tax in October. The latest check brings the year-to-date total to just under $26 million. This is an increase of 9.7% compared to a year ago. The latest tally was the 8th highest on record. The ¼% restaurant/lodging component of the tax increased by almost 16% over the year.

East Grand Forks businesses will be able to share more than $421,000 to help repair or renovate property and related site amenities under a program administered by the Northwest Minnesota Foundation. Grants can cover up to 30% of project costs. Renovations or construction must begin no later than January 5, 2024 and must be completed no later than June 30, 2026. The application deadline is December 20.

North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports recorded a total of 84,925 air passenger enplanements during the month of September. This is a 13% increase from 74,943 boardings in September 2021. It is also only 5% lower than the September 2019 pre-pandemic passenger count of 89,925. 6,081 passengers through the gates last month. Boarding for the year in Grand Forks was up nearly 31%.

The Grand Forks County Commission has approved bids for two construction projects for Grand Sky. A taxiway deck repair and a drone operations platform for small UAS test flights will cost a total of $2.52 million. RJ Zavoral & Sons submitted the lowest bid for both projects.

Bill Adams has joined the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation (EDC) as an Unmanned and Autonomous Systems (UAS) Development Officer. Adams will implement strategies to support the recruitment and expansion of primary sector companies in the aerospace sector. Adams recently graduated from the University of North Dakota in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics in Unmanned Aircraft Systems with an emphasis on Aviation Safety.

Families await in dread the approach of winter with high energy costs and limited fuel supplies. Some worry about whether heating assistance programs will be adequate for struggling families. Last month, Congress added $1 billion to the low-income home energy assistance package, bringing the total to at least $4.8 billion. The federally funded low-income program helped 14,430 eligible North Dakota households last season.

Starbucks is selling its Seattle’s Best Coffee brand to Nestlé for an undisclosed amount. The company said the acquisition of Seattle’s Best would provide more choices for customers. Nestlé also owns the coffee brands Nescafé, Nespresso and Blue Bottle. Starbucks acquired Seattle’s Best Coffee in 2003 for $72 million, giving it a cheaper brand. But Starbucks is currently focused on a costly transformation of its US stores.