Weekly economic indicators: Recovery holding ground, but no major upswing

The Indian Railways freight data shows that trains carried 14% more goods last week than they did in the same period last year.
The recovery in economic activity after unlocking began in June seems to be holding its ground, though upside momentum does seem limited. Most weekly economic indicators tracked by Business Standard were at levels similar to previous weeks.

Weak demand as people struggle with lower incomes and economic stress are among the reasons analysts have highlighted for weakness in economic activity. The data that captures this weakness, including macroeconomic numbers like gross domestic product (GDP), are often released with a lag. Business Standard tracks high frequency weekly indicators as a means of getting a more current picture of how the economy is doing. Analysts globally have been carrying out similar exercises to understand the fast-changing situation on the ground due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All data, except that from search engine giant Google, is as of Sunday, 20th September. Google data is released with a lag and is as of September 11.

The Indian Railways freight data shows that trains carried 14 per cent more goods last week than they did in the same period last year. This is in line with the previous week which saw similar year on year gains. Earnings from the goods carried were also higher than 2019 (see chart 1).


Power generation was also higher than in 2019. The seven-day rolling average showed 3.5 per cent more electricity generated than a comparable period last year. These numbers have been consistently higher than 2019 since the second week of September (see chart 2).

Google tracks location data to understand how people are moving during the pandemic. The data is anonymised and covers multiple countries and regions. Shopping for groceries, medicines and other essentials is higher than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic. Other categories show a decline. A surge since the unlocking has since moderated. Visits to workplaces are still down by almost a third (see chart 3).

Traffic congestion had begun to move up after June. It had fallen by 90 per cent or more in both New Delhi and Mumbai since the lockdown in March, shows data from location technology firm TomTom International. It is down by 29 per cent in New Delhi now. Mumbai traffic congestion 35 per cent below normal (see chart 4).

Business Standard also tracks nitrogen dioxide levels in the two cities. The pollutant is the result of industrial activity and vehicular emissions. Delhi pollution is around two per cent below 2019 based on a seven-day rolling average. The fall is far greater in Mumbai where it is still 92 per cent below 2019 levels (see chart 5,6).

Twitter: @SachinMampatta , @KantKrishna30 , @shinejac

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