Weekly economic indicators: Flat traffic growth signals moderating recovery

Mumbai has not seen an improvement in traffic numbers for the last few weeks. The latest data for the week ending July 5 shows a similar trend for New Delhi too
The rate at which the economy is shaking off the effects of the lockdown shows signs of reaching a plateau. Traffic numbers are not growing. Google’s mobility data also shows trends which point towards limited improvement.

Business Standard tracks a number of economic indicators on a weekly basis. This includes internet speeds, railway freight data, power generation numbers, pollution statistics as well traffic congestion and Google’s mobility data.   Google data and the numbers for internet download speeds appear with a lag. All other data is as of either Saturday or Sunday.

The weekly indicators act as proxies for how the economy is doing. Macroeconomic data such as gross domestic product (GDP) or trade numbers are often released with a lag. Tracking higher frequency indicators provide a sense of how the economy is doing ahead of such releases. It also helps keep track of how the government’s moves, such as the unlocking, are playing out in the economy.

The unlocking initiative is looking to get back on track an economy which has largely been shut since the end of March. The government imposed the lockdown as a means of ensuring social distancing to help avoid the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. A number of the weekly indicators which had plunged following the sudden announcement have since begun to rise, though the latest weekly numbers show that the improvement may be flattening.

Google tracks visits to various categories of places such as grocery and pharmacy stores as well as transit stations. All had fallen sharply in the end of March. The latest data is as of June 27. It shows that visits had begun to recover but are now rising more slowly than when the unlock began (see chart 1).

 

Traffic data shows a similar trend. Mumbai has not seen an improvement in traffic numbers for the last few weeks. The latest data for the week ending July 5 shows a similar trend for New Delhi too (see chart 2).

 

Internet speeds had picked up after the lockdown was lifted. There is no significant improvement in the week ending June 28 (see chart 3).

 

Pollution levels in Mumbai and Delhi remain below normal. The latest numbers are for Saturday. Business Standard tracks nitrogen dioxide which is emitted due to vehicular and industrial activity. Such emissions are still at only two-third of their normal levels in Delhi and a tenth of the normal in Mumbai (see chart 4,5).

 

Power generation, on the other hand, is at levels similar to 2019 as more industries get to work shows data as of July 5 (see chart 6).

 

The quantity of goods carried by the Indian Railways is down 9.6 per cent for the latest week. It was down 7.4 per cent in the previous week.  Earnings from carrying such goods are down around 15 per cent, which is the same level as the previous week (see chart 7).

 


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