Week 4

Covid-19 Economic Data Tracker

January 28, 2022

Download the entire weekly edition to view timely charts and data providing a comprehensive picture of how the pandemic affects our economic outlook.

Trend watch and what's new this week

We revamped the data tracker matrix (slide 2). We replaced state reopenings with the back-to- work barometer. We also replaced the apartment rent payments (as the National Multifamily Housing Council no longer provides the data) with monthly apartment rent prices. Additionally on the matrix, we downgraded OpenTable restaurant bookings to mixed since readings have sagged in recent weeks.

On the virus front, the omicron wave in the U.S. has clearly peaked (slide 3). This is reinforced by the regional U.S. and the state-level views (slide 7). It’s also supported by a sharp decline in the hospitalization rate and the percentage of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients (slide 8). The latter is encouraging but, with 15 states still above 20%, it remains problematic as it stresses hospital staffs and resources.

Also, the total number of new COVID-19 cases of school-aged children continues to climb (slide 9), hitting 14.1% of all new U.S. cases in the weeks after winter break. The worst portion is among the 5-11 age group, which rose to 6.5% in the past week.

We revisit the view of COVID-19 cases and deaths in select countries (slide 10), which is indexed to normalize the data. It illustrates the omicron variant is more contagious but not as deadly.

We review apartment rents (slide 11), which spiked during 2020 and are also a key component for inflation. While rents remain dramatically above pre-pandemic levels, they plateaued in the second half of 2021 and have even started to backslide modestly. 

Bottom line

Initial economic data during the first month of the year has been rather mixed. Some data, including staffing and freight metrics, picked up following holiday and year-end seasonality. Yet other data remained soft, especially travel-related such as air traffic, hotel occupancy, and restaurant bookings.

That said, the massive spike in omicron cases likely contributed to the softness. It is also winter, when heavy snowfall and frigid temperatures can depress activities across much of the northern states and periodically ambush some southern states. Thus, we should be prepared for some bumps along the way through the first quarter.

Looking ahead, we’re encouraged by the most recent virus trends, clearly showing the omicron wave peaked in the U.S. Similarly, virus trends in Europe improved to such an extent that several countries, including Ireland, France, and England, dramatically scaled back pandemic restrictions and rules (though most were significantly stricter than U.S. rules). These moves should incrementally help boost international growth in coming months. 

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