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Early economic effects from “safer at home” practices

What Census data from the Quarterly Services Survey can show us

Social distancing and “safer at home” practices have been in effect for many months now, so what do the data show us so far? These protective measures have had widespread effects across the economy; but some industries were affected much more quickly, as behavioral changes predated any official stay-at-home directives.

Our first example is transportation revenue, which varied according to whether people or goods were being transported: The graph above shows the quarter-to-quarter percent change in seasonally adjusted revenue for air, truck, and ground passenger transportation and couriers and messengers over the past five years. We note contrasting experiences for the four modes in quarters 1 and 2 of 2020.

  • Airline transportation fell 17.8%, then 78.5%.
  • Transit and ground passenger transportation fell 9.1%, then 40.4%.
  • Truck transportation was flat, then fell 16.7%
  • Couriers and messengers rose 2.3%, then 6.4%.

Even if you weren’t directly affected, you likely know that safer-at-home practices had an immediate impact on the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector of the economy. The graph above shows the percent change in seasonally adjusted revenue for amusement parks and arcades, gambling industries, and performing arts companies—including a striking decline in first-quarter revenue that was amplified in the second quarter. This decline coincided with the en masse cancelations of date nights, family outings, and spring break activities:

  • Amusement parks and arcades fell 19.1%, then 81.1%.
  • Gambling industries declined 12.3%, then 45.8%.
  • Performing arts companies declined 19.0%, then 66.1%.

Children have been seen and heard lately, at least in the media’s coverage of school closings and re-openings, homeschooling, and changes in child care. So you may assume day care service revenue took a hit, with many providers closing their doors in mid to late March. While some individual providers may have been affected early, seasonally adjusted revenue did not significantly change in the first quarter. But in the second quarter, seasonally adjusted revenue fell 35.1%.

One of the few industries to see growth in the second quarter of 2020 was community food and housing and emergency and other relief services, highlighting the substantial efforts of public and private groups to respond to the profound hardships faced during these uncertain times. Seasonally adjusted, the industry increased 31.2% in the second quarter after increasing 5.6% in the first quarter of 2020.

We have only two quarters of data available since the pandemic hit, so we have only just begun to measure the impact COVID-19 has had on the services economy. Although the duration and overall effects are still unclear, unprecedented revenue trends are likely.

How these graphs were created: From FRED’s main page, browse data by “Release” and search for and select “Quarterly Services Survey.”

First graph: Filter the available series to “Seasonally Adjusted” and “Transportation.” Select “Percent Change” for “Total Revenue for Air Transportation,” “Total Revenue for Truck Transportation,” and “Total Revenue for Transit and Ground Passenger Transportation.” Click “Add to Graph” (at the top or bottom of page). From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab’s search box to find “REV492TPSA” and click “Add Data Series.” Select “5Y” from the date selection options above the graph canvas.

Second graph: Filter the available series to “Seasonally Adjusted” and “Tax.” Select “Percent Change” for “Total Revenue for Gambling Industries” and “Total Revenue for Amusement Parks and Arcades.” Click “Add to Graph” (at the top or bottom of page). From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab’s search box to find “REV7111APSA” and click “Add Data Series.” Select “5Y” from the date selection options above the graph canvas.

Third graph: Filter the available series to “Seasonally Adjusted”. Next, select “View All” for “Concepts” and then select the “Child” filter. Select “Percent Change” for “Total Revenue for Child Day Care Services, All Establishments”. Click on the “Add to Graph” button at the top or bottom of the page. Select “5Y” from the date selection options above the graph canvas.

Fourth graph: Filter the available series to “Seasonally Adjusted”. Next, select “View All” for “Concepts” and then select the “Community” filter. Select “Percent Change” for “Total Revenue for Community Food and Housing and Emergency and Other Relief Services”. Click on the “Add to Graph” button at the top or bottom of the page. Select “5Y” from the date selection options above the graph canvas.

Suggested by Katherine McNitt from the U.S. Census Bureau.

View on FRED, series used in this post: REV481TPSA, REV484TPSA, REV485TPSA, REV492TPSA, REV6242APSA, REV6244APSA, REV7111APSA, REV7131TPSA, REV7132TPSA


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