Economic Data Tracker –
Week 14

Economic Data Tracker

April 8, 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

On the COVID-19 front, key virus trends in the U.S. continue decline (slide 6). However, the Omicron BA.2 variant, which is now the dominant strain in the U.S. (slide 8), appears to be pushing up cases marginally in some states.

New cases in the Midwest and the Northeast have edged up on a week over week basis but were more than offset by bigger declines in the South and West. Anecdotally, we have heard of new infections among family and friends in both regions, most of whom initially dismissed the symptoms as seasonal allergies.

Incoming activity-based data has strengthened (slides 5 and 7). This week, we highlight hotel trends (slide 9), which are finally back to pre-pandemic levels by several industry metrics. However, we suspect that the mix will remain tilted toward leisure rather than business travelers compared to pre-pandemic trends. That said, corporate travel has improved in ’22 (slide 13).

On slide 10, we show apartment rental trends. While supply remains tight (based on the vacancy rate), rents have been cooling for the past two quarters compared to the red-hot ’21, which saw effective rents jump an astonishing 12.7% year over year.

We also explore wage growth trends on slide 11. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s wage tracker shows that low-skill job jumpers are seeing the biggest wage gains. In fact, wage growth for low-skill workers has outpaced high-skilled workers for an unprecedent 13-month stretch. Aside from a 5-month span in 2010 when high-skill wages plunged, wages for low-skill workers haven’t grown faster in 25 years.

Lastly, we also revisit the number of new vehicles shipped via rail (slide 12), which hit a 13-month high. As new vehicles supply continues to climb, it should help with inflation pressures. 

Our take

We have taken notice of the bump higher in new infections regionally within the U.S., which is likely due the Omicron BA.2 variant. Accordingly, we now expect that new infections will continue to increase. Yet, health care experts don’t expect another massive surge in the U.S. because roughly 75% of Americans over 12 are fully vaccinated (slide 6) and a large portion of the unvaccinated have already been infected by one or more of the prior strains. The overwhelming evidence—both in the U.S. and elsewhere—shows that more than 90% of the severe cases (hospitalizations and deaths) are unvaccinated persons. 

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