Economic Activity in a Pandemic: Wisconsin Taxable Sales in March & April

A new report by Forward Analytics, Economic Activity During a Pandemic: Wisconsin Taxable Sales in March & April, shows the varying impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our state’s economy. See the full report here.

According to recently released data from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, taxable sales in Wisconsin declined 10.5% in March and April compared to the same months in 2019. These two months represent the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic in Wisconsin and the “Safer at Home” order issued in late March and lasting through May.

Changes in taxable sales varied widely by industry. Among the larger industries that were hardest hit during this period were Accommodation (-64%), Clothing and Accessories Stores (-57%), Food and Drinking Establishments (-42%), Motor Vehicle and Parts Dealers (-27%), and Furniture and Home Furnishing Stores (-25%).

The biggest beneficiary in terms of sales were online sellers such as Amazon. Nonstore Retailers saw taxable purchases rise 66% during March and April compared to the same months in 2019. Taxable sales rose 23% at food and beverage stores and 16% at building material and garden supply stores.

“What was most interesting was that the economic impacts varied widely by county,” said Forward Analytics Director Dale Knapp. “Taxable sales were off by 31% in Sauk County but up 7% in Burnett County. And of the 66 counties with sales taxes in place in 2019 and 2020, 14 saw more economic activity this year compared to last year.”

Knapp concluded, “The sales data show there was an urban/rural component to the changes. As a group, urban counties saw a decline of 11.9% while rural counties experienced a drop of 6.5%. These numbers show the complicated impact of the COVID-19 crisis across our state.”

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