The indicators that Business Standard examined includes internet load, Google location data, traffic congestion, electricity generation and pollution numbers among high frequency indicators
A host of very high frequency economic indicators show a significant decline in economic activity during the lockdown.
Economic activity becomes harder to track during the lockdown
put in place to limit the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Business Standard looked at key indicators which are available with greater regularity as a proxy for how the economy is doing. Analysts had used similar indicators in China during the period of the lockdown
when data was scarce, and also to keep an eye on a fast-changing situation which monthly or quarterly data may be too slow to capture.
The indicators that Business Standard examined includes internet load, Google location data, traffic congestion, electricity generation and pollution numbers among high frequency indicators. All the data except Google’s mobility and internet tracker Ookla’s download speed data is available as of the week ending Friday. The Google data is as of April 26, while Ookla’s weekly update is as of April 27.
The traffic data is based on vehicles on the road during the 9am rush hour. Location data from TomTom International shows that congestion is down 80.2 per cent in Mumbai and 69 per cent in Delhi compared to 2019 for the five days ending Friday (see chart 1).
It is not just people going to work, industrial and other activity seems to have seen a slowdown going by electricity data. There is a 27.6 per cent fall in electricity generation last week over the same period in 2019 (see chart 2).
Lack of industrial activity is also borne out by pollution data. Nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant which has its source in emissions from vehicles and industries, has seen a decline in the post-lockdown period. Business Standard looked at Central Pollution Control Board daily data for stations in Mumbai and Delhi. Mumbai had comparable data only for Bandra. Delhi had data across 37 locations. The average of these places was taken. Both cities show a significant decline in nitrogen dioxide figures for the week ending Friday (see chart 3, 4).
The internet speed tends to slow when more people are stuck at home. Work and entertainment usage increases internet load, and India’s fixed and mobile data speed are still lower than pre-lockdown days (see chart 5).
Google data on visits to various locations shows that recreational places like cafes, movie theaters and malls have seen the worst fall. Even grocery and pharmaceutical shops have seen a 51 per cent decline across the country (see chart 6).
Monthly data on Indian Railways freight traffic also shows that traffic is down by over a third. It would have been worse but for transportation of food which has picked up. (See chart 7).
Analysts have begun to cut expectations of economic growth. Fitch Ratings has cut its estimate of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth for 2020-21 from 5.1 per cent to 0.8 per cent.