Weekly economic indicators show slow but steady signs of recovery

The latest figures from global internet tracker Ookla show higher speeds than January and February for the week ending June 7
The opening up of the country after around three months of lockdown is showing up in increased activity across multiple indicators. The pace of increase is gradual, suggesting that people are taking a cautious approach in coming back to work.

Business Standard looks at weekly economic indicators such as power generation, goods carried by the railways, pollution levels, and traffic in key cities. These indicators are for the week that has just gone by. Some other weekly indicators such as internet speeds and Google location data appear with a lag.

Analysts globally began to track similar indicators to find out how the economy is doing in countries under lockdown. Commentators tracked them in China and other countries which locked down before India to limit the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is important because macroeconomic data such as gross domestic product and trade numbers are quarterly or monthly. Watching indicators with a higher frequency of publication helps understand the fast-changing situation on the ground.

Traffic congestion from location tracker TomTom International shows that more people are taking to the roads, but congestion is less than half of what it was last year. Delhi shows a better recovery than Mumbai (see chart 1).

 

Pollution data shows a similar trend. Business Standard looks at nitrogen dioxide levels since it is emitted due to industrial and vehicular activity. Mumbai pollution is far below the normal level. Delhi has seen a dip but shows more activity than Mumbai (see chart 2,3).

 

Power generation is almost back to normal levels. The drop is around a tenth from the levels seen in 2019. It was down by around a third at its peak (see chart 4).

 

Internet speeds showed recovery from the dip during the worst of the lockdown. More people worked from home in the week that went by. Video conferencing became more common. People were also consuming more data for entertainment through various platforms like Netflix. This slows down the internet. The latest figures from global internet tracker Ookla show higher speeds than January and February for the week ending June 7 (see chart 5).

 

Google mobility reports are also released with a lag. The latest numbers for June 7 shows that grocery and pharmacy visits have been fastest to recover. They are now showing only a single-digit fall from normal. They were down over 64 per cent at the peak. Google’s analysis of its location data shows visits to other categories of places have also slowly risen (see chart 6).  

 

The railways also show only a decline by a tenth in the quantity of goods they are carrying. Last week had shown a marginal rise, but the overall trend does seem better than before the unlocking (see chart 7).



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