There have been various data points that give us clues on what is happening across America concerning the ongoing Coronavirus crisis. For certain, the actual COVID-19 statistics are useful, as well as various economic data points such as unemployment, GDPNow, and still other data points of Consumer Confidence. These data sets give us a view of what has and what might happen as this crisis unfolds. We like to point out and look at another data set: Google Mobility Data Reports – you can find this data here.
These Community Mobility Reports aim to provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19. The reports chart user movement trends over time by geography, across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.
It should be noted that it is unnerving that Google is collecting location information from our smartphones. Remember, when you clicked that button when your smartphone asked, “Will you allow this App to have access to your smartphone’s location data?” Well, this allows Google to collect and use this data, then even sell it to third parties and governments. And sometimes Google will share this data with the public. We presume Google has decided to share this data in light of the Coronavirus crisis – nice of them, eh? Personal information security is yet another subject we should consider at a later time.
In any case, the data shows how visitors to (or time spent in) categorized places, change compared to a baseline days on a percentage basis from this baseline. A baseline day represents a normal value for that day of the week. The baseline day is the median value from the 5‑week period Jan 3 – Feb 6, 2020. Right Wire Report took the liberty to download the latest entire data set to date (mid-February to May 16, 2020) and place the whole timeline in a chart below (click here for the zip file download):
Looking at this data, it does give us some good insight on what has happened during the Coronavirus crisis. It can confirm what we have already seen anecdotally. Here are some key take away of past events:
- In Mid-March, we can see the uptick of food hoarding just prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
- The peak of the crisis on this Mobility chart is Mid-April. This coincides with the actual rounding the top of the actual Coronavirus curve.
- Food and pharmacy purchases from the crisis peak have largely returned to normal by Mid-May – people eat the same.
- Starting from the beginning of the lifting of many of the stay-home-orders, while business lockdowns still in place, at the end of April, we can see people start to go to parks more to pass the time.
- Business mobility was, at its lowest (peak crisis), was nearly -50%. It has only recovered to -25% to date.
- The “V” curve is not uniform. Going up the second leg of the “V” curve is far slower than the initial first leg down of the “V.”
One might say, “Yeah, I knew this already.” But what it does is to validate the data set as useful – the past data reflects what we have seen. So from this data set, we can postulate future events that may happen:
- The “V” recovery may turn into an inverse “✔” checkmark. The recovery accent from the crisis bottom will be harder than the descent into the crisis. This means the recovery maybe 2x to 4x the decent in terms of time and activity.
- The return to normal may not happen, rather it may stall at a new lower normal.
- At current rates, it could possibly take 6 to 12 weeks to get back to normal from the end of the data set.
What will make a quick “V” recovery or a slow inverse “✔” checkmark and stall recovery? The answer will be government – more or less. The more government gets involved in the recovery, the longer the recovery will be and the level of any new normal. This is the choice we have this fall in this current election cycle – recovery to a better normal or a new lower normal. We shall continue to watch this data over the coming months to see what this Community Mobility Reports will tell us in terms of how we are doing in the Coronavirus crisis.