Data Sense: 2013 predictions on the mark

Since its inception in May, this column has focused on using the best available data to make predictions about indicators that are important to the local economy. We made several predictions in 2013, encompassing topics such as sales tax revenues, gasoline prices, population levels and electricity consumption levels. Now that we’ve rung in the New Year, it’s a good time to take a look back at a few of these predictions to see how we did.

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Brandon Owens

In our May column, we looked at sales tax revenues through March and made a best guess about where we’d end up by year end. The City of Craig Sales Tax Report for March 2013 indicated that the year-to-date collection total was $814,648. Based on this, we predicted 2013 annual sales tax collections would be $3.75 million and that year-to-date sales tax collections through September 2013 would be $2.69 million.

The September 2013 tax report is now available. It shows that year-to-date sales tax collections through September were actually $2.61 million. That means that the May forecast for year-to-date sales tax collections through September was $84,000 higher than the actual. That’s a difference of around 3 percent, which indicates that the forecast was very accurate. Incidentally, based on the latest data, the expected 2013 sales tax total is now $3.64 million, a 3.6 percent increase from 2012.

In our June column, we looked at gasoline prices. According to gas prices provided by OPIS, a comprehensive data set of U.S. retail fuel purchases that is updated daily with new data from roughly 100,000 gas stations and convenience stores across the country, the average price of a regular gallon of gas in Craig was $3.94 per gallon on June 6. Given the local gasoline price history and the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) crude oil price forecast, we predicted that average gasoline prices in December 2013 would fall to $3.52 per gallon. Turns out, this prediction was also very accurate. According to GasBuddy.com, average gasoline price on Dec. 31 in Craig was $3.49 per gallon.

It is important to periodically assess past predictions to see how accurate they were. This process helps us understand and improve future predictions. Of course, the ultimate goal is to always make the most accurate predictions possible based on the best available data.

Brandon Owens is an independent contractor for Yampa Valley Data Partners (YVDP), a regional nonprofit organization serving Moffat and Routt counties. YVDP’s mission is to strengthen our communities through collaborative partnerships and by providing relevant, timely, accessible data to decision makers. Visit yampavalleydatapartners.com

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