September 18, 2020

Trend Watch and New This Week

We are seeing continued improvement in the key virus-related data (slide 3), including confirmed cases and hospitalizations. Within the data, the number of patients on a ventilator have leveled off during July and August (slide 5).

OpenTablereservations and air passenger throughput also made strides in the past two weeks. Similarly, data has firmed for hotel occupancy, freight and cargo, and business formations (slide 4).

US gasoline and diesel use has largely recovered, but jet fuel usage remains roughly 40% below the three-year average (slide 6).

Businesses and workers continue to adapt to the pandemic. While more than a third of US jobs can be done remotely, the notion that workers will never return to offices appears to be a stretch. Workers are enjoying some of the flexibility, which may continue beyond the pandemic, but some are struggling with working from home, according to several recent studies and surveys (slide 7).

Bottom Line

Activity-based data has reaccelerated recently, which reflects more areas reopening and permitting additional activities. Still, some of the improved data is concealing further deterioration by some of the hardest hit industries, including restaurants, bars, and travel-related firms. This is especially true for activities that require crowds, such as travel, movie, live productions and sporting events, which remain well below historical norms and will likely stay shuttered for the foreseeable future.

Overall, we maintain our general optimism about the recovery path. As we have repeatedly said, the US economy took the elevator down to the basement, but is taking the stairs on the way back up. Furthermore, the recovery will continue to be uneven—both by industry and region.