January 6, 2021

Trend Watch and New This Week

The holidays have certainly impacted the US virus trends, as the amount of testing declined sharply (slide 3). We anticipate that the number of COVID-19 cases will rise along with the number of tests. The rate and total number of hospitalizations were stable, but we remain concerned as the percentage of US hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients has neared 20%.

We highlight the rate of positive test results (slide 5), which has jumped in the past two weeks for various reasons.

We also highlight the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines (slide 6). In the US, the initial rollout has not gone smoothly due to a myriad of factors. There have been 4.3 million doses administered, which is well behind the year-end target of 20 million. Still, the US ranks second globally in terms of doses and fourth per capita (vaccines per thousand people).

We revisit the staffing index (slide 7), which shows that companies continue to supplement with temporary workers and appear to be retaining more through the holidays compared to prior years.

Lastly, among the things that come with the new year will be a full year’s worth of data for the new alternative data series we have been following, many of which began in early January 2020. This should help provide some much needed year-over-year context.

Bottom Line

The cross currents from mixed data continued over the last few weeks of the year. For instance, negative data, including the US virus-related trends, were followed by positive data such as the staffing index, freight & logistics and housing.

We are encourage by two recent developments. First has been the deployment of vaccines in the US and globally. The second was when Congress passed additional COVID relief, which should help those hit hardest by the pandemic, especially in the leisure and hospitality industry.

We maintain our general optimism about the US recovery. While it’s steadily improving, the recovery will continue to be uneven—both by industry and region.