Lockdown 4.0: Weekly economic indicators show activity inching upwards

Topics Coronavirus | Delhi | Lockdown

The economy is attempting to restart itself.

Tentative efforts at reopening factories and other parts of the economy are showing up in weekly indicators tracked by Business Standard.

There is more traffic on the roads, more power being generated, the internet shows lesser signs of strain and more people may be reporting to work. The data while better than earlier parts of the lockdown, largely still shows significant declines from normal levels.  

Weekly data gives a fast-moving gauge of how the economy is doing. This is useful during periods of the lockdown where much can change in a short period of time. Monthly and quarterly data may appear with too much of a lag to properly capture such changes. Business Standard looks at indicators including traffic congestion, pollution levels, power generation, internet speeds, Google location data and freight data. Analysts have tracked similar data elsewhere in the world, including China, during periods of the lockdown. Traffic, power generation and pollution data are as of Friday, 15th May. Some of the other numbers appear with a lag.

Traffic data showed more cars hitting the streets. This was true more for Delhi than Mumbai. The data looked at rush hour traffic in the morning. Mumbai is similar to where it was the previous week (see chart 1).

 

This is also borne out in the pollution data. Mumbai shows similar levels as the beginning of May for nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant which is the result of vehicular and industrial emissions. Delhi has narrowed the gap it has showed with the same period last year. Delhi pollution has dropped from over 60 per cent at the beginning of May to an average of under 55 per cent for the seven days ending last Friday (see charts 2, 3).

 

Power generation data at the national level shows a shrinking gap with the previous year.  Generation was down by around a quarter at the beginning of the month. Now it is down to less than a fifth (see chart 4).

 
Internet data from international download speed tracker Ookla shows that mobile phone download speeds are now similar to pre-lockdown levels. This data appears with a lag and is for the week ending 10th May (see chart 5). Internet speeds slow down as more people work from home and also look for entertainment through video platforms like Netflix.

 

Google data is as of May 9.  It shows increasing visits to workplaces. This is based on location data that the company tracks, though still down by around half (see chart 6).

 

Trains are carrying fewer goods than before. There has been a fall of over 60 per cent in the quantity transported. Earnings are also down similarly (See chart 7).  The numbers showed some change in the last seven days, with loading down by only a quarter and earnings by a third compared to the same period the previous year.

 


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