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America’s employers likely cut back again on hiring last month – and might even have shed jobs – with the economy under pressure from a resurgent virus that has led many consumers to reduce spending. Economists have forecast that employers added just 105,000 jobs in December. That would mark the sixth straight month that hiring has slowed from the previous month and the lowest job gain since May.

Factories grew in December at the fastest pace in more than two years as manufacturing continued to fare better during the pandemic than the battered services sector. The Institute for Supply Management reports that its gauge of manufacturing activity rose to 60.7% last month, the highest reading since it stood at 60.8 in August 2018.

Sales of new vehicles in the U.S. fell 14.6% last year, but a second-half rebound from a coronavirus-related plunge in the spring kindled optimism for a recovery later this year. Automakers report selling 14.57 million new vehicles for the year, a far cry from the five previous years with sales over 17 million. But the 2020 performance was better than most forecasters had expected when the pandemic forced auto factories and many dealerships to shut down in April and May.

The U.S. trade deficit jumped to $68.1 billion in November, the highest monthly deficit in 14 years, as a surge in imports overwhelmed a smaller increase in exports. The Commerce Department said Thursday that the November gap between what America buys from abroad compared to what it sells rose 8% from October.

Online shopping has been a lifeline for many as the virus pandemic shuttered stores and kept people at home. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the change in how people shop in a world growing more comfortable and savvier with technology. E-commerce sales’ strong growth is expected to continue long after the virus subsides.

The final sales tax check of calendar year 2020 netted Grand Forks over $2.3 million dollars. The December tally pushes the year-to-date total to $26,251,515 dollars – an increase of nearly 4.9% over last year. The January payment will close out the 202 budget period.

Amazon says it has bought 11 jets from Delta and WestJet airlines to boost its growing delivery network and get orders to shoppers faster. The company said it’s the first time it purchased planes for its delivery network. Over the past couple of years Amazon has been leasing planes to build its fleet.

The economy continues improving in nine Midwest and Plains states but business leaders are less optimistic after the latest surge in coronavirus cases in the region. The overall index for the region suggests strong growth even though it dipped to 64.1 in December from November’s 69. The survey covers a number of states including North Dakota and Minnesota.

Grand Forks issued 83 permits for new single family homes during 2020. The city also approved 42 town house applications. A year-end report shows 277 multi-family apartment units were completed last year – with roughly 510 still under construction.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released state-level population estimates for 2020. North Dakota ranked as the 28th fastest-growing state between 2019 and 2020 (+0.2 percent). Last year North Dakota ranked as the 20th fastest-growing state in the country. North Dakota’s 2020 population estimate was 765,309 which is an increase of 1,585 residents since 2019. Idaho was the fastest-growing state between 2019 and 2020 increasing by 2.1 percent, while Texas reported the largest numeric increase in residents (+373,965).

A pair of salvage yards along Gateway Drive are a step closer to securing new five-year Conditional Use Permits from Grand Forks. The P & Z gave its O-K to the CUP. The full council will review the applications for Swangler Auto Wrecking and Weekley’s Auto on January 19th.

The Grand Forks Planning & Zoning Commission has approved the plat of land that covers the property of Northern Air Fun Center and the former Happy Host Inn. The move is designed to all for future development of the Happy Host site. No specific development plans have been submitted.

The Office of Management and Budget today announced Stacey Breuer has been named the Chief People Officer (CPO) for the state of North Dakota. A native of Bismarck, Breuer has a bachelor’s degree from North Dakota State University and a master’s degree with a human resources. The CPO is state government’s top workforce strategist and organizational development leader.

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